Statements

GOVERNMENT STRATEGY CONCERNING
THE PROTECTION OF THE CHILD IN DIFFICULTY
(2001-2004)

- may 2001 -
  1. General Framework
  2. The NAPCA Mission
  3. Responsibilities of the Authorities of the Local Public Administration in the field of the Protection of the Child
  4. The Involvement of other Ministries and Institutions in the Implementation of the Strategy
  5. Principles
  6. Target-Groups
  7. General Directions
  8. Expected Results

    OPERATIONAL PLAN for the Implementation of the Government Strategy Concerning the Protection
    of the Child in Difficulty (2001 - 2004)


    Top of the document1. GENERAL FRAMEWORK

    1.1.Guaranteeing and observing the rights of the children, and placing them into an area of special interest are matters of national priority. This priority may also be formulated as follows: the life, development and welfare that all children have to benefit from at the beginning of this new century and millennium are the foundation on which the future of a country is built. In addition to that, in the case of Romania, the complex process of EU accession is inexorably linked to the observance of the political criteria laid down in Copenhagen concerning the observance of human rights, with a special emphasis on the rights of the child.

    1.2. The observance, promotion, and exercise of the rights of the child - as they are defined in the international instruments ratified by Romania - will contribute to the full and harmonious development of every child's personality. Thus, the spirit of the Romanian people's traditions and cultural values will be complemented by a new, modern, and dynamic component - integration into universal spirituality. In the light of that integration, child protection in Romania means striking a balance of three essential components: child, family, and society. The manner in which that balance is achieved has to be continuously regulated, implemented, and monitored by the state, as one of the fundamental responsibilities the state has towards the fate of all citizens.

    1.3. Article 3 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, that Romania ratified by means of Law no. 18/1990, says: "in all decisions concerning children, whether they are made by public or private social care institutions, by courts, administrative authorities or legislative bodies, the best interests of the child have to be the priority consideration". The state "must provide children with the protection and care necessary for their welfare, while also considering the rights and duties of their parents, guardians, other legal representatives, and for the purpose it will have to take all the adequate legislative and administrative measures". Moreover, the state "will make sure that all the institutions, services, and other organizations that have responsibilities towards children and provide protection for them do observe the norms established by the competent authorities, particularly concerning security and health, as well as concerning the numbers and competence of their staff, and the existence of adequate control and supervision".

    1.4. The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child unequivocally formulates the fundamental, indissoluble link that exists between children and their families. It is important to emphasize that the accountability of families for their children acquires new dimensions in the attempt to provide children with an environment where they can develop in an atmosphere of happiness, love, and understanding. The parents' improved education level, along with the decent living standard they can benefit from, may lead to a better awareness of the fundamental role of the family, as well as to the full exercise of that role. A direct consequence of that can be a decrease in the number of children in difficulty. In that context, considering the major role of the family, the responsibility of the Romanian state lies in creating a favorable framework that allows the identification of a permanent solution for the protection of children in difficulty. It is a unanimously accepted fact that the solution of adoption, whether national or international, serves the best interests of the child and is the only special protection measure with a permanent character. This measure may offer children the family environment that is so necessary for a harmonious growth and development of their personality.

    1.5. In order to provide a coherent and unitary framework for the promotion and observance of the rights of all children, a major measure to be taken is the drafting of a unique law, that can approach the problems related to children in an integrated manner. The first consequences of the passing of such a law will be a simplified, more effective and operational legal framework that provides a definition for the life and development of children. The major asset to be derived from the construction of a "Code of the Child" - as a result of a wide process of consultation and involvement of all factors concerned - will be, however, the realization that children do represent an absolute priority. The life, development, and welfare of the children in this country are a fundamental responsibility of the entire Romanian society. The unification of all efforts in order to improve the situation of children may represent a model of national understanding and cooperation.

    1.6. Among the approximately 6 million children of Romania, there are also disadvantaged children. Special actions have to be undertaken and promoted to their benefit, meant to secure the observance and guaranteeing of all their rights, in order to support their growth and plenary development. Effective protection of children in difficulty will never be possible without a systematic approach, since it is an integral part of the overall framework of social, family, educational, and health policies, whose final purpose is to promote the welfare of the whole population and - implicitly - of children.

    1.7. The framework for defining the actions and measures that are required in order to make the key items of the policy in the field of child protection come to life is materialized in the present Strategy of the Romanian Government. While it is drafted in the spirit of the provisions contained in the relevant international conventions and treaties ratified by this country, the present strategy also takes into account the particularities of intervention in the Romanian social, economic, and cultural context.

    1.8. In the definition and implementation of its strategy concerning the protection of the child, the Government of Romania starts out from the major political premise that the reform in this field needs to be continued and deepened. This can be achieved by turning to good account the experience and positive results obtained so far, as well as by granting more attention to aspects that still pose major problems in the system. In this context, the present strategy is a revised and improved version of the previous strategy.

    1.9. While proposing a coherent framework for action, the Government Strategy concerning the protection of the child in difficulty (2001-2004)

    highlights the central role played by the National Authority for the Protection of the Child and Adoption (NAPCA) in approaching the problems related to children in difficulty or at risk;

    establishes the institutional framework whereby NAPCA actions are integrated / correlated / coordinated with the actions of ministries as well as of other governmental structures with competences in the field of social, family, and educational policies;

    highlights the essential role of local administrations in solving cases involving children in difficulty or at risk, as well as the intention to continue the decentralization of action from county to local level;

    presents the framework for intervention and the cooperation in the field with the civil society, particularly with (Romanian and foreign) non-governmental organizations, without which the dynamics of the child protection system, or the observance and protection of the rights of the child, can hardly be imagined.

    1.10. In order to implement the provisions of the present strategy, the Government encourages cooperation with the legally recognized denominations in Romania, that also approach the social dimension, and have proved to be effective in such action. In that context, the cooperation with the Romanian Orthodox Church is an important consideration, since it has expressed its full availability for working towards the improvement of the situation of children and families in difficulty.

    1.11. It is important to underline that, in the complex actions undertaken to provide protection for children, to observe and promote their rights, Romania benefits from a consistent support granted by the international community. In that context:

    the European Union has been involved in the field by means of the PHARE assistance programs ever since the early '90s, both by providing a significant cumulated volume of grants, as well as by means of multiple and sustained technical expertise;

    the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) has also been an active presence in this country since 1990, developing multiple projects whose purpose is to improve the situation of children, from a social, medical or educational point of view;

    the World Bank and the Bank for Development of the Council of Europe are partners of the Romanian Government in an important reform program of the system for the protection of the child;

    the Governments of countries such as the US, the UK, France, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland support the Romanian system of child protection, either on a bilateral basis, or in the framework of more ample international programs.

    1.12. The Government Strategy starts out from the premise that there is a need for adequate coordination of all these programs, in order to avoid duplication and parallelism, as well as to make sure that both the resources allocated for these projects, and the expertise and results accumulated from them, are used effectively.

    1.13. The present strategy concerning the protection of the child starts out from the basic principles underlying the government's policy in the field, It lays out the general directions and the specific objectives that need to be considered, the road that has to be taken in order to reach the expected results, as well as the resources necessary for the system, having in view the target-groups of final beneficiaries considered as a priority.


    Top of the document2. THE NAPCA MISSION

    2.1. Established by virtue of the Government's Emergency Ordinance no.12/2001, the National Authority for the Protection of the Child and Adoption (NAPCA) is the Government's specialised body providing methodological coordination for child protection activities, whose main responsibility is to draft, coordinate, and monitor the policies in the field. In order to achieve the purpose it was established for, NAPCA has adopted and promoted the provisions contained in the international treaties and conventions defining its own domain, starting out from:

    the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

    the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child

    the Convention on the Protection of Children and on Cooperation in the Field of International Adoption, concluded in the Hague

    2.2. NAPCA fulfils the following functions:

    a strategic function, whereby it performs the substantiation, drafting, and implementation of the reform strategy and programs in the domain of the protection of the child and adoption;

    a regulatory function, whereby it establishes the necessary regulatory framework in order to achieve the objectives and programs formulated;

    an administrative function, whereby it performs the management of the public and private property of the state, as well as the management of the public services in the field of the protection of  children in difficulty;

    a representation function, whereby it provides internal and external representation on behalf of the Romanian state;

    a state authority function, whereby it monitors the implementation of regulations in its field of competence, it supervises the adequate implementation of those regulations, as well as the activity of the institutions and bodies that operate under its coordination or authority.

    2.3. The main purpose of NAPCA intervention in the implementation of policies and strategies concerning child protection is the promotion, observance, and securing of all the rights of the child, as they are mentioned in the UN Convention, in the context of the full range of human rights and fundamental freedoms. Another goal is to grant children the status of partners in the decision-making process in order to improve their overall life.

    2.4. A category of concrete instruments whereby the implementation of the reform is oriented, performed and supervised are national programs. They represent modalities in which state budget resources can be used to co-finance activities for the protection of the child at a local level. The Government, by means of the NAPCA, supervises the way in which the funds allocated to these programs are spent.

    2.5. In order to achieve that purpose, an important step will be to formulate the operational objectives that need to be fulfilled in terms of the rights and liberties stipulated in the international norms ratified by Romania, in a complete and complex national legal norm, that should include the following:

    a)    the measures whereby the effective exercise and the full realization of the children's rights and freedoms, as well as the promotion of those rights and freedoms will be guaranteed to a larger extent;

    b)    the public and private actors with responsibilities in the drafting of the above-mentioned measures, as well as in their implementation;

    c)     the system for the monitoring/assessment of the way in which the measures mentioned under item (a), and respectively the activities of the actors under item (b) are implemented, in a manner that should allow their continuous improvement.


    Top of the document 3. RESPONSIBILITIES OF THE AUTHORITIES OF THE LOCAL PUBLIC ADMINISTRATION IN THE FIELD OF THE PROTECTION OF THE CHILD

    The Mayor

    According to art. 68 par. (1) letter a) of Law no. 215/2001 on local public administration, the Mayor "ensures the observance of the citizens" fundamental rights and freedoms."

    According to art. 69 of the same Law no. 215/2001 on local public administration, in exerting its function of a guardianship authority, the Mayor also acts as a representative of the State. In this context, the Mayor will order the carrying out of social inquiries concerning the observance of the rights of the child, and will conduct primary inquiries for establishing guardianship.

    Based on the provisions of the Family Code, with subsequent amendments, the Mayor has the obligation to ensure the integrity of the fundamental rights of the children in the community where he has been elected to office.

    The President of the County Council

    According to art. 116 par. (1) letter o) of Law no. 215/2001 on local public administration, the President of the County Council "coordinates from a methodological point of view, monitors and supervises activities related to the keeping of public records and those of the guardianship authority conducted in the towns and villages."

    According to art. 116 par. (1) letter q) of Law no. 215/2001 on local public administration, the President of the County Council "coordinates, supervises and is responsible for the activities concerning the protection of the child." These tasks delegated by the state to the local authority of the public administration are accomplished through the specialty apparatus of the County Council, coordinated by the County Secretary General.

    The County Secretary General

    According to art. 120 par. (1) letter o) of Law no. 215/2001 on local public administration, the County Secretary General "coordinates the department for public records and the guardianship authority within the County Council's own specialized body."

    The authorities of the local public administration are held to fulfil any other tasks in the field assigned by the Government or by means of special laws, on the condition that the necessary funding is also provided, according to art. 7 par. (3) of Law no. 215/2001 on local public administration.


    Top of the document 4. THE INVOLVEMENT OF OTHER MINISTRIES AND INSTITUTIONS IN THE IMPLEMENTATION OF THE STRATEGY

    The Ministry of Justice 

    is involved in:

    - the cooperation between the courts and the authorities of the local public administration concerning the social inquiries conducted for establishing guardianship, the entrustment of minors, adoption, and abandonment;

    - the drafting of the complete set of laws in the field (Civil Code, Penal Code, Family Code, and other normative acts) in order to ensure the observance of the rights of children and their protection from any form of abuse.

    The Ministry of the Interior 

    is involved in:

    - the cooperation between the authorities of the local public administration and of public order on the one hand, and specific services within the Ministry of the Interior;

    - the supervision of the families that include children at risk (abused, neglected), and intervention in the homes of families that abuse and neglect their children, as well as the notification of the authorities of local public administration on the need to initiate the required legal procedures.

    The Ministry of Health and the Family 

    Is involved in:

    - the cooperation between the authorities of the local public administration and the specialized emergency services in the health care system;

    - the establishment, together with the authorities of the local public administration, of community services dedicated to the treatment, care, rehabilitation, and protection of children with disabilities according to local needs and resources.

    The Ministry of Labor and Social Solidarity 

    is involved in:

    - the drafting and development, together with the authorities of the local public administration, of programs for social and vocational orientation for the children (and young people) in the protection system;

    - supporting initiatives concerning the establishment of protected companies and workshops that may facilitate the vocational integration of young people.

    The Ministry of Education and Research 

    is involved in:

    - cooperation between the authorities of the local public administration and the Romanian education system through financing local programs aiming at the social integration in the education system of the children in difficulty


    Top of the document 5. PRINCIPLES

    The principles that lie at the foundation of the strategy in the field of child protection are the following:

    1. THE PRINCIPLE OF THE BEST INTERESTS OF THE CHILD

    In all the actions carried out in the context of this Government Strategy, the best interests of the child shall prevail. The Strategy promotes actions that mainly converge on the protection of the child in difficulty or at risk, whatever the nature of the causes that may determine that situation.

    2. THE PRINCIPLE OF NON-DISCRIMINATION AND EQUAL OPPORTUNITIES

    The policy in the field of child protection is formulated and implemented in such a way as to guarantee in Romania the observance and promotion of the rights of children as stipulated in the UN Convention, irrespective of race, color, gender, language, religion, political or other opinions, nationality, the ethnic or social group they belong to, disability, birth, the situation of the children, of their parents or legal guardians.

    3.THE PRINCIPLE OF SECURING A FAMILY ENVIRONMENT

    All the actions laid down in the Government Strategy are based on the principle of securing a family environment for every child, including children in difficulty. If a child in difficulty is protected in substitute families or in residential type units for a determinate period, the priority will be to provide that child with a family type living environment for the whole duration of the protection measure - until the child can be reintegrated into the natural family, the extended family or (in cases where reintegration is not possible or it is not in the best interests of the child) until its integration into an adoptive family.

    4. THE PRINCIPLE OF DECENTRALIZATIONAND OF MAKING THE COMMUNITY ACCOUNTABLE FOR THEIR CHILDREN

    At present, the system for the protection of children in difficulty operates in a decentralized manner in the counties and in the districts of the Municipality of Bucharest, respectively. The present Government Strategy is based on the consolidation of public services specializing in the protection of the child that are subordinated to county councils or to district councils, respectively, as well as on the involvement of local communities, by continuing the decentralization of services at the level of local municipalities. Special attention will be granted to making the community accountable for solving the problems related to their own children.

    5. THE PRINCIPLE OF SOLIDARITY

    The rearing, development, and education of all children will be done in a spirit of dignity, freedom, and respect for one's fellow men, priority being given to consolidating social cohesion in approaching child-related problems, with special reference to the most vulnerable groups - children in difficulty.

    6. THE PRINCIPLE OF INTERSECTORIAL AND INTERDISCIPLINARY INTERVENTION

    The problems concerning the protection of the child are approached in the context of social, family, and education policies. Approaching and solving problems in the field presupposes cooperation and coordination of the interventions of all responsible factors, as well as an intersectorial and interdisciplinary approach.

    7. THE PRINCIPLE OF PARTNERSHIP

    In all the types of activities specified in the Government Strategy for the protection of the child in difficulty, NAPCA promotes cooperation with:

    ministries and other institutions of the central administration, as well as with their territorial structures;

    specialized public services of the local public administration in the counties and the districts of the Municipality of Bucharest;

    the local communities;

    Romanian and foreign non-governmental organizations acting in the field of the protection of the child by means of humanitarian and professional programs;

    European and international institutions, bodies, and organizations.

    The principle of partnership operates at all the levels of intervention, from national to local. All types of activities, from the drafting and coordination of the strategy to the interdisciplinary intervention in the benefit of children and families are carried out by cooperation and partnership.


    Top of the document 6. TARGET-GROUPS

    The target groups considered as a priority in the drafting of the Government strategy for action in the field of child protection are the following:

    institutionalized children;

    children protected in families, both in their own families (in order to reduce the risk of abandonment), as well as in their substitute families / alternative family-type services;

    children who are maltreated, neglected or abused in their own families;

    children with special needs and children with HIV/AIDS hosted in institutions or in alternative family-type forms of protection;

    delinquent children;

    street children;

    children/young people coming of age during their long-term institutionalization.

    According to the recently adopted Strategy on the improvement of the situation of Roma (GD no. 430/2001) particular attention shall be granted to children belonging to the Roma minority.


    Top of the document 7. GENERAL DIRECTIONS

    The general directions of the reform process in the system of the protection of the child in difficulty or at risk are the following:

    1)   Preventing and reducing the abandonment of children by their own families, by supporting families in difficult situations

    2)   Restructuring existing services and residential care institution, including services for children with deficiencies or disabilities; reorienting their use of the financial, material, human, and technical resources available towards the organization and diversification of alternative services to residential protection; and reducing the number of institutionalized children (particularly in the case of institutionalization for long or indefinite terms)

    3)   Improving, completing, and harmonizing the legislative framework required for the organization and operation of the system for the protection of the child, both in order to improve and clarify that framework, and to bring it in line with the standards stipulated in the international norms and treaties in the field to which Romania is a party

    In this context, priority will be granted to the following:

    • reconsidering the legislation regarding adoption, the main purpose being to encourage national adoption, with the state granting incentives to adopting families for a definite period;

    • clarifying the legal provisions concerning the neglect, maltreatment or abuse that children are exposed to in their own families;

    • improving the legislation referring to juvenile delinquency and justice;

    • analyzing the possibility to set up a Court for minors

    • improving the legislation referring to the exploitation of child labor;

    • reconsidering the legislation referring to the sexual exploitation of children.

    At the same time, by means of a wide process of consultation and involvement of the entire society, a draft "Code of the Child" will be drafted and forwarded for adoption, as a framework or unique law encompassing the whole range of issues and problems related to the life, development and welfare of all children.

    4)   Promoting adoption (according to the principle "a family for a child" and not "a child for a family") as a special measure for the protection of the child, with a special emphasis on encouraging national adoption. The purpose of national adoption will be to maintain children adopted from institutions in the linguistic, psychological and social environment that is familiar to them. Similarly, inter-country adoption will be resorted to as a last resort for the protection of children in families, after all other domestic options have been exhausted.

    5)   Continuing the decentralization of the system from the county to the local level, by developing and diversifying services for the prevention of child abandonment as well as protection services, and by making the community responsible for the problems of their own children.

    6)   Improving financial mechanisms: providing financial resources, coordinating cash flows, increasing efficiency in the use of allotted budgets, increasing the effectiveness of the results obtained by the final beneficiary of the system - the protected child.

    7)   Improving the system of minimum mandatory standards, as well as professional and administrative-institutional norms, by types of services and interventions offered in the system of child protection.

    8)   Creating a national accreditation system for non-governmental organi zations operating in the field of child protection. The system is to also include a central body with competences in the field of accreditation and monitoring of the activities of non-governmental organizations, according to the system of minimum mandatory standards.

    9)   Developing and improving the professional level of the human resources involved in the system of child protection, by defining and promoting professional status, as well as by providing initial and in-service training for the staff in the system, in all categories and at all levels.

    10)  Creating and developing a national system for the monitoring and assessment of the situation of children in difficulty or at risk, the activity of the services and institutions for child care and protection, including the financial resources available or allotted at/from the central and local level, as well as of the way in which these resources are used - in such a monitoring/assessment system it is possible to foresee any potential budget crises in the system of child protection

    The Government shall monitor the harmonization of the reform process in fields such as: social protection, local administration, justice, health and education, with the reform in the field of child protection.


    Top of the document 8. EXPECTED RESULTS

    The results expected following the implementation of the present Government Strategy Concerning the Protection of the Child in Difficulty (2001-2004) are:

    1. a decrease in the abandonment rate of children by their own parents;

    2. a decrease in the number of institutionalized children;

    3. a decrease in the number of residential care institutions and the closing down of those that, for various reasons, cannot be restructured in order to create a family-type environment;

    4. progressive increase in the share of children protected by alternative forms of services and family-type institutions, or who are reintegrated into their own families, as against the protection granted in residential care institutions;

    5. an increase in the number of alternative services offered to children in difficulty, as against the number of "classic" protection institutions;

    6. a decrease in the length of stay of children in residential care institutions;

    7. the implementation, at a national level, of the minimum mandatory standards, of the framework operating rules, and the methodological guides of best practice for the organization and operation of the services and institutions in the child protection system;

    8. improving the quality of child care in the residential system, following the implementation of quality standards;

    9. the operation of a flexible and operational national system for monitoring the entire activity of child protection;

    10. stricter supervision of the allocation and utilization of funds in the system;

    11. securing an adequate balance between the funds spent and the quality of services offered;

    12. increasing the professionalism of the human resources in the system;

    13. ensuring the re-conversion of the human resources of the system let unemployed as a result of the process of restructuring/closing of the residential institutions.

    14. making the community responsible for approaching the problems of the child (according to current practice in the countries in the Euro-Atlantic area);

    15. adopting legislative and media-related measures that can lead to an increase in the number of national adoptions, by drafting the necessary legal framework and running a public campaign for stimulating the potential for adoption in Romania, in order to increase the number of couples who adopt children in difficulty; developing transparent and correct practices concerning adoption, that can directly serve the best interests of the child, and do not allow the raising of inappropriate profits from that activity.

    16. clarifying the responsibilities, roles, and relationships established between the various institutions involved in the field at different levels, as well as coordinating their actions;

    17. developing the participation and specialization in the actions of non-governmental organizations in the domain of child protection;

    18. clarifying, simplifying / making more efficient and formulating the operational objectives of the legal framework that governs the problems referring to children, particularly in the domain of the protection of children in difficulty or at risk.


    Top of the document OPERATIONAL PLAN for the Implementation of the Government Strategy Concerning the Protection of the Child in Difficulty (2001 - 2004)

    OPERATIONAL OBJECTIVES

    I. Developing and diversifying the modalities of intervention in order to prevent abandonment and to reduce institutionalization

    II. Preventing child abuse and neglect under any form, as well as preventing all phenomena that may make a child get into difficulty

    III. Continuing decentralization from county to local level, and consolidating local institutional capacities, in order for them to assume responsibility in approaching the problems related to children in difficulty

    IV. Creating and developing specialized services and integrative practices for children with special needs in order to improve their opportunities for a full and harmonious development

    V. Developing a set of measures and mechanisms for young people who, before the age of 18, have benefited from one of legal forms of protection, and that can facilitate the acquisition of the skills necessary for their educational, occupational, and social integration

    VI.  Disseminating information and raising public awareness concerning the rights of the child in order to improve the overall attitude and behavior related to the problems specific to children and families at risk or in difficulty

    VII. Encouraging adoption as a special measure for the protection of the rights of the child

    VIII. Effective management of the human and financial resources involved in the child protection system


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