Life Sentence: ERRC Research Finds Romani Children Overrepresented in State Care

30 June 2011

Budapest, Brussels, 30 June 2011: Today, the European Roma Rights Centre presented the findings of a multi-country study revealing significant overrepresentation of Romani children in State care institutions in Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Italy, Romania and Slovakia. The study, conducted by the European Roma Rights Centre in partnership with the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, the Milan Simecka Foundation and osservAzione, reveals that across all six EU Member States of the study, Romani children are disproportionately represented in State child care institutions compared to non-Roma.

In Bulgaria, official data shows that Romani children account for around 50% of the children in the State-run children’s homes and about 33% of the children in State-run homes for children with intellectual disabilities. In the Czech Republic, an official estimate indicated that 33% of children in institutions were Romani, while 40.6% of the children in the sample of children’s homes visited were Romani. In Hungary, Romani children were found to represent 65% of the children in State care institutions visited. In Italy, migrant Romani children accounted for around 20% of the children in the institutions visited. In Romania, Romani children accounted for 31.8% of children in the homes visited while the General Directorate for Social Assistance and Child Protection reported that Romani children constitute up to 80% of children’s home population in some regions. In Slovakia, Romani children accounted for 82.5% of the children in the institutions visited.

The underlying reason for these grim statistics is the interplay of structural poverty and discrimination. Poverty and material conditions, school absenteeism, single parenthood (especially single motherhood) and unwanted pregnancies and migration were all factors. Some Romani families perceived discrimination against them on the part of child protection actors, which is borne out by other evidence of discriminatory attitudes and prejudice amongst child protection actors. For many institutionalised Romani children, reintegration into the family setting is unlikely and their ethnicity negatively affects their chances of adoption, meaning that many Romani children spend their entire childhood in State institutions.

During the conference, ERRC Executive Director Robert Kushen explained, “One of the 11 action points of the EU Agenda for the Rights of the Child is ‘Paying particular attention to children in the context of the EU Framework for National Roma Integration Strategies’, notably promoting the more efficient use of structural funds for the integration of Roma.’ Our findings underline the urgency of turning this lofty goal into quick and tangible results so that the next generation of Romani children is not lost.”

The study, supported by the European Commission's Fundamental Rights and Citizenship programme, followed a 2007 ERRC report entitled, Dis-Interest of the Child: Romani and the Child Protection System, which revealed similar problems in Hungary.

For more information, contact:

Sinan Gökçen
ERRC Media and Communications Officer


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