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Children without Parental Care: Urgent need for Action

Motion for a recommendation | Doc. 11571 | 15 April 2008

Mr Pieter OMTZIGT, Netherlands ; Mr Claudio AZZOLINI, Italy ; Ms Marie-Louise BEMELMANS-VIDEC, Netherlands, EPP/CD ; Ms Olena BONDARENKO, Ukraine, EPP/CD ; Mr Luc Van den BRANDE, Belgium, EPP/CD ; Ms Karmela CAPARIN, Croatia, EPP/CD ; Ms Minodora CLIVETI, Romania ; Mr Karl DONABAUER, Austria, EPP/CD ; Ms Daniela FILIPIOVÁ, Czech Republic, EDG ; Mr Andreas GROSS, Switzerland, SOC ; Mr Tiny KOX, Netherlands, UEL ; Mr René van der LINDEN, Netherlands ; Mr Bernard MARQUET, Monaco, ALDE ; Ms Marietta de POURBAIX-LUNDIN, Sweden, EPP/CD ; Ms Darinka STANTCHEVA, Bulgaria ; Mr Milan URBÁNI, Slovak Republic ; Mr Wolfgang WODARG, Germany
Referred to the Social, Health and Family Affairs Committee, for report: Reference No. 3443 (Standing Committee, 29 May 2008).

Member states are increasingly concerned about the large number of children without parental care and the lack of appropriate alternative care and the too limited reduction of institutionalisation in Europe.

It is recognised that the child, for the full and harmonious development of his or her personality, should grow up in a family environment, in an atmosphere of happiness, love and understanding.Note

This is also recently demonstrated in the new programme “Building a Europe for and with children”, devoted to promote children’s rights in Europe.

In Europe all forms of children without parental care exist. Including:

  • Unaccompanied children:

There are about 3.5 million asylum seekers, refugees and others of concern in Europe. Nearly half of this number is children and adolescents under the age of 18, and 13% of these children are under the age of 5.Note An estimated 2% to 5% of the refugee population are unaccompanied children, that is between 70 000 and 175 000 children.

  • Street children:

Every city in Europe has street children. There are no reliable data regarding their numbers and their identity.Note

  • Trafficked children:

There are no quantitative and qualitative data on trafficked children in Europe. Children are mainly trafficked from east to west for cheap labour, child prostitution or illicit international adoption.Note

  • Children in public (institutional) care:

In central and eastern Europe alone, almost 1.5 million children live in public care. In some states, the annual number of “children left without parental care” has more than doubled over the last 10 years, despite falling birth rates.Note A disproportionate number of children in institutions are Roma.

Children without parental care are at the greatest risk, since they lack the protection, physical care and emotional support provided by the family.Note There is an increasing number of unaccompanied minors who disappear from reception centres and run a high risk of becoming victims of trafficking.Note Street children are exposed to the worst forms of violations of their human rights. They may be killed, exploited, abused or tortured, and yet their suffering remains invisible.Note Trafficking always violates the child’s right to grow up in a family environment. In addition, children who have been trafficked face a range of dangers, including violence and sexual abuse.Note Many children are placed unnecessarily and for too long in institutions, where they receive less of the stimulation and individual attention needed to grow to their full potential. Inadequate care environments can impair children’s emotional and social development.Note

The lack of quantitative and qualitative data on children without parental care in Europe is one of the main constraints to effective intervention and evidence-based policy making. A lack of available information also limits the ability to determine if implemented strategies are indeed improving the protection of these vulnerable children.Note

The overall picture is that most countries do not have a comprehensive and effective plan of action to prevent and reduce the phenomenon of children without parental care with alternative care in a family setting, for example, within the context of the extended family or via foster care, kafalah or (inter-country) adoption. Progress in the development of appropriate alternative care and the reduction of institutionalisation is too limited. More must be done.Note

The Council of Europe should exert the maximum effort to assist and protect children without parental care and to expedite the return to and reunification with their families. The Council should take appropriate steps to mobilise resources commensurate to the needs and interests of children without parental care and for their reunification with their families.

The Council of Europe should welcome all efforts to undertake actions aimed at prevention and to improvement of the plight of children without parental care, with a sense of urgency.

In order to make effective decisions and to improve the provision of alternative care for children without parental care, academic research on a country level in each member state is needed. The World Initiative for Orphans (WIO), a global partnership on children without parental care, has experience in such studies in Latin America and Africa.

The Assembly, therefore, urges the Committee of Ministers to call on member states to:

  • share information needed to initiate a full study on (alternative care for) children without parental care and to compare and review related policies;
  • develop a knowledge-sharing network of best practices and scientific research and updated databases;
  • bring together a diverse group of experts in child welfare issues yearly, to review the progress and any gaps identified, including sharing of best practices;
  • promote multilateral co-operation in the field of (care for) children without parental care;
  • initiate co-operation with the WIO to guide these studies.