ERRC Research Coordinator Djordje Jovanovic on Romani Children in Institutional Care

ERRC Research Coordinator Djordje Jovanovic on Romani Children in Institutional Care

The European Roma Rights Centre, in partnership with the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, the Milan Simecka Foundation and osserVazione, has conducted a study on the human rights situation of Romani children in institutional care in Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Italy, Romania and Slovakia. Today I am with Djordje Jovanovic, who coordinated this research.

Sinan Gokcen: Djordje, what are the main findings of this study?

Djordje Jovanovic: The results of our study were quite shocking. There is a huge overrepresentation of Romani children in state care. All the countries, that we looked at, have less than a 10% share of Roma in the total population. But in Slovakia more than 80% of children in institutions were Romani. In Bulgaria and Hungary more than 60%, in the Czech Republic it was more than 40%, and in Romania more than 20%. In Italy, where the total share of the Roma population is less than 0.25% of total population, Romani children constitute more than 10% of all children in the institutions.

S.G.: Please tell us, the reasons for this overrepresentation?

D.J.: Our research revealed a number of factors which broadly fall into two categories: the situation of the family and the child protection system itself. Discrimination is a factor in both of them. When it comes to the situation of the family, various problems were highlighted during research including poverty and material conditions, school absenteeism, unwanted pregnancies, single parenthood, and migration. Romani parents and child protection workers reported that the most common reason for child removal was poverty and material conditions, although in some countries, including Hungary, Slovakia, Italy and Czech Republic, removal of the children based on this reasons is prohibited.

S.G.: What are the challenges faced by Romani children who grow up in institutional care?

 D.J.: There are indications that the current system creates a cycle, which is very hard to escape from. Children growing up in institutions have to leave them when they reach 18, with very limited support, if at all, in the outside world. They face multiple forms of discrimination as Roma and as children raised in institutions. This leads to socio-economic exclusion and poverty through the generations.

S.G.: And Djordje, please, finally tell us: What do you aim to achieve with this study?

D.J.: We hope to help policymakers and advocates promote and protect the rights of Romani children. With this study we want to help set future priorities for EU and Member State policy and actions, so we can see the real change across the region.

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