NGOs Turn to Europe to Fight Institutionalisation of Children in the Czech Republic

Budapest-Prague: An ERRC and Forum collective complaint is submitted to the European Committee to pressure the Czech Republic to close down institutions for infants.

An institution for infants in the Czech Republic. Image: Ludvík Hradilek, Aktualné.czAn institution for infants in the Czech Republic. Image: Ludvík Hradilek, Aktualné.cz

Institutionalisation has long-term negative effects on the physical and emotional development of young children. Yet the Czech Republic continues to be one of the last European states to allow long-term placement of young children into state institutions.

Romani children and children with disabilities are significantly overrepresented. Professionals, activists and non-governmental organisations have for years been pressuring authorities to abolish institutions for children under the age of three. This new complaint, relying on Article 17 of the European Social Charter (ensuring the right to social and economic protection of children and provision of appropriate supportive services), asks the European Committee to step in and pressure the Czech Republic to finally shut these institutions down.

All children have the right to be provided adequate support and care in their own family, or in family-like alternative forms of care.

“Children who live in institutions have to deal with severe social isolation, reduced environmental stimulation and loss of control over all aspects of their daily life, not to mention the so well-documented forms of abuse and neglect. These can have seriously detrimental effects for the rest of their lives, particularly when children are placed in institutions at such a young age. The situation in the Czech Republic can hardly be considered as appropriate within the meaning of Article 17 of the Charter,” said Steven Allen, Interim Executive Director of the Mental Disability Advocacy Centre.

“All young children are vulnerable to harm caused by institutionalisation, but once again it is Romani children in the Czech Republic who are disproportionately affected,” said ERRC President, Đorđe Jovanović. “Segregation starts early for Roma here - official data clearly shows that Roma are significantly overrepresented, alongside children with disabilities, in state care institutions.”

“We are hoping that after years of discussions at the governmental level, with the help of this collective complaint, the Czech Republic will finally realise that ending institutional care for young children must become a political priority,” emphasised Tereza Bártová, lawyer of Forum for Human Rights.


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