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Public Defender Evaluates Alternative Care System for Children

On 14 May 2019, Public Defender Nino Lomjaria presented the Special Report on Monitoring the Child Care System – Effectiveness of Alternate Care. The report was prepared by the Public Defender's Office with the support of the European Union and UNICEF.

For the purpose of monitoring the alternative care system for children, the Public Defender's Office evaluated 43 small group houses, 128 foster families, 68 families involved in reintegration services and 7 religious boarding schools. In addition, visits were made to 64 territorial units of LEPL Social Service Agency for the purpose of studying the child’s needs.

"Identification of child victims of violence, management of complex behavior and crisis situations, prevention of and timely response to the cases of child abuse, and psycho-social assistance remain problematic. The state does not have a systemic vision to tackle poverty and raise the social function of families. The available programmes cannot meet the needs in this direction, which negatively affects the rights of children. Shortcomings in the field of child care, the lack of specialists, psychologists and social workers and the problem of their effective engagement remain problematic," - the Public Defender stated at the event.

UNICEF Representative in Georgia Ghassan Khalilnoted that UNICEF has been actively cooperating with the Public Defender's Office and supporting the independent monitoring of child's rights for years. "The report published by the Public Defender today reflects the challenges faced by orphans. Significant reforms have been implemented in recent years, such as introduction of a special monetary assistance for children living in extreme poverty, legislative initiatives on improving social work, protection of children from abuse and foster care. However, the lack of family support services, quality of social work, lack of psycho-social rehabilitation for victims of violence and support to children after leaving state care remain problematic. UNICEF continues to cooperate with the Government and the Public Defender's Office for the protection of child's rights," said the UNICEF Representative.

The special report was presented by Maia Gedevanishvili, Head of the Department of Child’s Rights of the Public Defender's Office, and employees of the Department, Mariam Bochorishvili and Tamta Babunashvili.

Monitoring showed a number of challenges relating to the protection of the rights of children in state care. Problems remain unsolved over the years in the direction of child abuse, realization of the right to education, provision of adequate psychological/rehabilitation services for children, preparation of children for independent living and lack of human and financial resources.

In addition, problems have been revealed in terms of prevention of removal of children from their biological families on the ground of poverty, since the social security system does not offer effective, result-oriented, child care and social programmes for families living in extreme poverty.

According to the Public Defender, children in state care should enjoy a high standard of protection, since involvement in care system for many years, frequent change of services, mental health and behavioral problems, cases of violence and seperation from biological families represent special stress factors for children and leads to the necessity of their special treatment and provision of quality services.

The Public Defender also presented recommendations at the meeting, which can significantly improve the situation in the state child care system.

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