ERRC Conference Highlights Worrying Situation of Romani Children in the Hungarian Child Protection System

Hungarian Romani Children Over-Represented in State Care

Budapest: At a conference hosted in Budapest today, the European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) presented a report based on research conducted in 2007 which indicates a disproportionate number of children in state care in Hungary are of Romani background. The report, "Dis-Interest of the Child: Romani Children in the Hungarian Child Protection System", explores concerns related to the over-representation of Romani children in state care as well as the role of ethnic identity in state care and adoption processes. It also covers the disproportionate categorisation of Romani children in state care as mentally disabled.

In Hungary's 7 regions focus group discussions with professionals were conducted by Hungarian experts Maria Herczog, Marian Nemenyi and Gabor Havas. The ERRC conducted field research in three counties and several Budapest districts and held in-depth interviews with children living in children's homes, professionals in child care and adoption and Romani families whose children were under special protection.

For this research 120 children living in Hungarian children's homes were interviewed by the European Roma Rights Centre. Children of Romani background accounted for 58% of this group while Romani children account for only 13% of the child population in Hungary. In some homes, even all of the resident children were Romani.

Independent researcher and ERRC consultant Maria Nemenyi highlighted that subjective forms of neglect, including bad social and housing conditions, which depend on interpretation of the assessor are more commonly listed as reasons for the removal of Romani than non-Romani children from their families. According to Maria Herczog, "Romani children are less likely to be adopted because primarily non-Romani adopters often do not want Romani children for different reasons." A disproportionate number of Romani children in state care have additionally been categorised as mentally disabled which affects their quality of education and their potential for adoption. The report points out the need for serious attention by the Hungarian government to these matters.

According to Tara Bedard of the ERRC and author of the report "The reasons are many and multifaceted. The solutions are equally complex and will require open minds and strong commitment by all actors involved to initiate positive change for Romani children in state care." Key ERRC recommendations for action to be taken by the Hungarian government were presented. They include legally empowering and training child protection workers in the collection and handling of ethnically disaggregated data, which will help to understand the full scope of the situation and the need to strengthen actions for the prevention of endangerment of Romani children. No child should be placed in short-term care without court approval. Equally non-discrimination, equal opportunities and Romani participation in the child care system were underlined.

The full text of the report is available in English  View it (Acrobat pdf format)! and in Hungarian  View it (Acrobat pdf format)! on the ERRC website.

For further information, please contact:
Tara Bedard, ERRC Senior Projects Manager, tara.bedard@errc.org, +36.1.413.2200 (English)
Monika Pacziga, ERRC Women’s Rights Officer, monika.pacziga@errc.org, +36.1.413.2200 (English and Hungarian)

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