Expert in the field of protection of the rights of children and youth with intellectual and mental disabilities, Melanie Reeves from the USA, is on a visit to Serbia for several days, at the invitation of the MDRI-S association.
On this occasion, representatives of the National Preventive Mechanism hosted her today at the institution of the Protector of Citizens, where she held a seminar for employees dealing with the rights of children and persons with disabilities and the NPM representatives, as well as representatives of the competent ministry, on the topic “Children and adults with disabilities have the right to live in the community”. At the end of the lecture, Melanie Reeves also spoke with the Protector of Citizens, Zoran Pasalic, about her findings during visits to state institutions and social welfare homes where children and young people are housed.
The representatives of the NPM, together with the expert, Ms. Reeves, visited the Stationary of the Center for Protection of Infants, Children and Youth in Zvecanska Street on Tuesday, which is the center's largest and most famous organizational unit. The director of the institution, Ivan Milacic, informed the guest about the institution's capacities, the methods of work and the role in the prevention of placement of children in institutions, which the center implements through numerous programs for supporting the biological family.
It was pointed out to the expert, Ms. Reeves, that Serbia is one of the countries with the least number of children in institutions in Europe, that children in Serbia stay for a relatively short time in institutions (from 5 to 7 years), and that there have been some positive results in the field of deinstitutionalization, since today there are only 675 children in institutions and about 5000 in foster families, while some 20 years ago this number was equal.
It was also pointed out that services for the support to biological and foster families are not sufficiently developed for children with disabilities and that foster parents are not sufficiently trained to take care of their needs, which is evidenced by the fact that in the past years there has been on average only one child with disabilities placed in foster families. Children with disabilities, especially those who have significant health problems in addition to intellectual disabilities, are most often not accommodated in small communities of the home type, since there are no material and staffing conditions for this.