13.03.2018Protecting children from violence is not a privilege, but a right and responsibility of the national institutions.
As experts, organizations and networks, working for long years on the topic of violence, we state our position on the recent increase of public cases of children, victims of violence. We are highly concerned from the years-long unsolved issues in the field of child protection and rights of the children in Bulgaria that these cases reflect fully.
Every child needs a responsible adult so he can grow as independent and fully developed person. A number of studies show that the violence have a negative effect on the child. Permanent stress and violence in early age, including neglect in the family, can lead to long lasting behavioral problems. Research of the development and functioning of the brain shows, that the neglect, physical and sexual violence, in cases when the child is the victim or the witness, influence the brain development and can cause negative changes in its functionality and the structure of the personality. The consequences in long term can cause depression, anxiety, hyperactivity or drug abuse. Systematic trauma, especially in early age, is a premise for physical and heart diseases later in life. On global level the economic loss for the society, resulted by sexual, physical and psychological violence over children is calculated to be from 3 to 8 percent from the global GDP.
Violence is a serious violation on the child rights. The effective protection of the children against violence is a responsibility of the state and the institutions. Although there are number of international standards and national legislations, that guarantee children rights and protection from different forms of violence, the practice of the experts and the organizations in this field shows it is not used effectively. The understanding of what is violence, what are the consequences and the prevention is not the same for the organizations. Often as violence is taken only physical violence and sexual abuse, but the other forms of physical punishment, psychological and emotional abuse, as well as neglect from the parents, are not recognized as violence.
Every year in Bulgaria thousands of children are victims of different types of violence, but the state doesn’t provide adequate care. For years we alarm about the unsolved issues in the child protection system, having negative effect on the children and their parents in contact with it. One of the main issues is the non-working coordination mechanism for children, victims of violence, the need of clear standards for workload of the experts, the issue with the focus on the administrative work rather the social work, the lack of requirements for the professional education and professional standards, the quality qualifications, monitoring, supervision, adequate pay and so on.
We think that the recent cases indicates the lack of clear protocols/algorithms with clear responsibility for inter institutional actions and intersectional approach in cases of violence, which contrary to the European projects and good practices, implemented in the country, still remain not imposed.
The last cases that gained media attention illustrate for yet another time the bad coordination and the lack of joint concept and approach between the institutions, which is confirmed from the analyses of our work and number of researches. Besides the lack of effective partnership between health, educational, social and justice system, the other big problem is the failure in the legislation and financial regulation of integrated services such as Family-counseling center, Center for health for mothers and children, Early intervention center, Mental health center etc., for which 16 million BGN were spent from the European and national budget.
Still can’t be resolved the issues with collecting and analyzing data and the lack of wholesome and effective indication system for the real conditions and information, on which the making and evaluation of the policies to be based.
We believe that the violence prevention and the effective protection should be priority for the responsible institutions and for the whole society, on which we have to work systematically and purposefully by:
1. Developing a shared between the Ministry of labour and social policies, Ministry of health, Ministry of education and local authorities concept for legislations and financial regulations of the universal services, accessible for everybody and aimed to promote good parenting, violence prevention etc., such as Family-counseling center, Center for health for mothers and children, Mental health center etc. and integrated services as Early intervention center, Protection Zone, Child rights centers and other.
Our proposal is these services to be clearly defined in the new Law of social services, as we propose a work group to update its name to Law of social and integrated services.
2. Reglamenting professional standards/ competence profile of the experts, working with children such as teachers, health workers, social workers, police officers, prosecutors, attorneys etc., by using the existing products of European and national projects, in which the state was a side. Professional standards should be a base for creating programs for the implementation and in-depth education,
We propose that the National Council for Child Protection have to discuss and agree on a plan and steps to fulfill the commitment that is embedded in a number of country strategies and action plans such as the Updated Implementation Plan for the Deinstitutionalization Vision for 2016-2020, a map for the implementation of the Updated Strategy for Implementation of the Reform in the Judicial System, etc.
3. Developing an effective information system and adequate indicators for detection of child incidents and neglect, as well as the implementation of programs and practices for preventing and coping with violence.
We insist that the National Agency of Child Protection, in its role as specialized authority in the field of coordination and protection of child rights in the structure of the Council of Ministers, in cooperation with the Social Assistance Agency, National Statistics Institute, the Ministry of Interior, the Ministry of Education and Science, the Ministry of Health, the Prosecutor's Office, UNICEF, NGOs and experts, to organize an emergency meeting on the information system and indicators, which are used to collect and analyze cases of violence, as well as review and discussion of the implementation of the Coordination mechanism of working with children - victims of violence or at risk of violence, and for interaction in crisis intervention.
4. Developing and implementing an urgent short-term plan for solving the problems in the protection system and a long-term one that is oriented towards legislative, institutional and administrative reform. This should include the separation of social assistance from child protection, separation of management and control functions, empowerment of municipalities and legal regulation of effective coordination mechanisms and an integrated approach that will lead to better coherence of the actions of individual institutions and professionals working with children.
We propose at the next National Council for Child Protection meeting to be discussed how and in what format will be developed both the short-term emergency plan and the long-term plan to address the systemic and unresolved issues.
5. Developing internal policies and procedures to ensure child protection from abuse by peers and adult in all institutions and organizations (including educational) working with children, that provide for and ensure the implementation of adequate recruitment and volunteer recruitment mechanisms, training, support and supervision, procedures for identifying and assessing the risk and responding to information on violence against a child, etc.
Civic organizations working with children and families have expertise and experience in implementing such policies and procedures in different institutions such as kindergartens, schools, organizations, etc. , and shared them with the Ministry of Education and Science and the National Agency of Child Protection, and are ready to provide additional support and assistance.
6. proposals for amendments to the Code Criminal Procedures for effective implementation of the requirements of Directive 2012/29 / EU, including the individual assessments of injured children and local interinstitutional interaction protocols as a guarantee for the best interest of the child.
As a first step, we suggest the Ministry of Justice to organize a professional discussion on the topic of the attempt made in 2017 to transpose the Directive, whether it was done effectively and how the changes are being implemented in practice.
7. Planing and implementing campaigns to change public attitudes and build a zero tolerance for violence.
We propose, following the announcement of the results of the specific surveys, the Ministry of Labour and Social Assistance and the National Agency for Child Protection to coordinate the planning of a national campaign against violence against children aimed at raising public awareness of the different types of violence and where people can report and seek help.
8. Establishing a clear mechanism for collecting, analyzing and promoting good practices in the field of child abuse prevention. For more than twenty years, NGOs in the country have been developing practices to prevent violence, prevent the risk of violence and neglect, and prevent the recidivism and secondary victimization of children. In these practices were invested a lot of resources, human efforts, innovative and professional approaches that the state have neglected for years or have used very little. These achievements are a serious resource that can provide modern answers to almost every problem in this field and should be used.
We insist that the National Agency for Child Protection should take responsibility for developing and coordinating such mechanism, making it publicly available to all national and local authorities, different professionals working with children, parents, young people and other stakeholders.
This statement expresses our opinion as citizens, professionals and parents who are looking for and will continue to look for a way to protect the children in a situation where, even time of peace, their rights are grossly violated. We reaffirm our willingness to actively contribute on the basis of our expertise and experience, while maintaining and defending the best interest of the children.
List of the organizations, supporting the statement:
Association of Bulgarian midwives
Bulgarian Family Planning Association
Bulgarian Pediatric Association
Bulgarian Helsinki Committee
Bulgarian Center for Not-for-Profit Law
Woman Society “Ekaterina Karavelova”
Institute for social activities and practices
Club of non-governmental organizations
International prize of the Duke of Edinburgh
National Association of Resource Teachers
National Network of Health Mediators
Culture Centre “Future Now 2006”
International Social Service – Bulgaria
Association for Bulgarian Family Values, Tradition and Culture "Bulgarche"
"The True Guardian" Association
“Ecomission 21st Century” Association
Association "Child and Space"
Association "Children and Adolescents"
“EU-O-EU Women and Children Violence survivors” Association
Association "Knowledge"- Lovech
"SIR - Kardzhali decides"
Association "Organization Drom"
Association "Social Dialog 2001"
Association "SOS Children's Villages Bulgaria"
“New Road” Association
Association for Pedagogical and Social Assistance for Children -Bulgaria
Association "Roma Academy for Culture and Education"
Association "Center Dynamics"
Association "Chance and Protection"
NGO "Future for the Children"
NGO "Together for a Better Future - Sredets"
Agapedia Bulgaria Foundation
Animus Association Foundation
“Children's Book” Foundation
Gender Alternatives Foundation
"For Children at Risk in the World" Foundation
"Julia's Home" Foundation
Foundation "Health and Social Development"
Foundation ”For Our Children “
“Karin Home” Foundation
“Concordia Bulgaria” Foundation
MIM FIZIO Foundation
"Hope for the Littleones" Foundation
Applied Research and Communications Fund
“Tsvetan Tsanov” Foundation
“Nadia Center” Foundation
Center for Inclusive Education
School Board at Primary School “Hristo Botev”
Source: National Children’s Network