Today, in the Palace of Serbia in Belgrade, the conference “STRENGTHENING FAMILIES – WINDOWS OF OPPORTUNITY” was organized by the Network of Organizations for Children of Serbia – MODS in cooperation with the Republic Institute for Social Protection with the support of UNICEF and under the auspices of the Ministry of Labor, Employment, and social issues.
The conference was dedicated to the issues of development of services and programs that would enable permanent, timely and adequate support to the family with children, in order to prevent the separation of children from families, that is, enable the return of children to primary families, if separation has already occurred. A number of possibilities and resources have already been considered, both in public and in the civil sector, and they need to be put into the function of strengthening the family and supporting the child to stay in the family.
The participants of the conference were initially addressed by State Secretary of the Ministry of Labour, Employment, Veterans’ and Social Affairs Mr. Nenad Nerić, and Severin Leonardi, Deputy Director of UNICEF in Serbia.
The State Secretary Nenad Nerić emphasized that the protection of the child and their best interests, and therefore their family, is one of the basic tasks of the social protection system. He emphasized that the social protection system insisted on shifting focus from restrictive measures to supporting biological families, and that it is important to put as much focus on the faster return of children displaced into their biological families.
Severin Leonardi, Deputy Director of UNICEF in Serbia, commended the determination of the Republic of Serbia to prioritize solutions based on family support. She stressed, however, that “still no family support services are available to all families and parents” and urged the Ministry of Labour, Employment, Veterans’ and Social Affairs to make additional efforts “to establish a system that is effective in identifying families facing with problems and services being available throughout the country”.
Speaking to conference participants at the beginning, Saša Stefanović, Director of MODS, reminded that from 2009 to date, only 23% of children returned to their biological families out of the total number of children in institutions who left institutional accommodation. For this reason, it is necessary to set the return of children who are relocated from families to their biological families as a priority, as well as to prevent the relocation of a child from the family, when it is in the best interest of the child.
Participants of the meeting also received a copy of UNICEF’s publication “Strengthening families from vulnerable groups – windows of opportunity” that includes examples of family support services and programs.