Promising Change: Romani Children in State Care in North Macedonia

The European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) has today released new research concerning North Macedonia’s progress on deinstitutionalization of its children in state care sector. The report, titled Promising Change: Romani Children in State Care in North Macedonia, provides valuable insights into the impact of deinstitutionalization on vulnerable Romani children and their families, the availability of care and support in the community, and recommendations to ensure successful deinstitutionalization.

Källa: ERRC

The ERRC’s President, Ðorđe Jovanović said that “because Roma are over-represented in state care systems, the ERRC views the institutionalisation of Romani children in Europe as a form of ethnic violence that is done to our communities. Deinstitutionalisation saves Romani kids from growing up in an environment which no child should ever experience. While North Macedonia is making substantial efforts to overcome this abuse, there is still a long way to go in terms of ending institutional racism, discrimination, and abuse that Romani children face too often in the care system.”

The report acknowledges the commendable efforts of the North Macedonian Government and its commitment to ensuring that no child under 18 is placed in an institution after 2020. Through extensive research, including interviews with representatives from institutions, service providers, NGOs, care home staff, foster carers, parents, and young people with lived experiences in care, the report highlights the significant progress made in deinstitutionalization. It emphasizes the closure of large-scale childcare institutions and the government’s determination to replace residential care with community support and community-based living services. 

However, the report also sheds light on the human rights abuses Romani children face in state care, addressing issues such as physical abuse, discrimination, and neglect of support upon leaving the institution. The ERRC’s research has been instrumental in legal challenges and advocacy efforts to combat racist practices and promote family support. The report also draws attention to the situation of Romani children in other countries, emphasizing the need for comprehensive deinstitutionalization reforms. 

It is clear from this research that there is an urgent need for seamless, cross-sectoral coordination to support young people leaving the care system effectively. The ERRC calls on authorities to proactively address and prevent poverty, disability, or ethnic origin from being unjust reasons for separating children from their biological families. Removal of children from their families should only be considered as a last resort, always prioritizing the best interest of the child. It is crucial that North Macedonia maintain and enforce quality standards and clear guidelines for child protection.

The ERRC urges authorities in North Macedonia to continue their commitment to deinstitutionalization, ensuring ongoing improvements in monitoring and evaluation and allocating necessary resources. This includes holistic support for vulnerable children, including housing, education, healthcare, and ongoing support for young people transitioning out of the care system.

The full report, ”Promising Change: Romani Children in State Care in North Macedonia” is available here

This press release is also available in Macedonian.

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