Terre des hommes Moldova Foundation promotes and develops children’s rights protection programs in Moldova for more than ten years, juvenile justice being one of the major areas of interest and intervention. Thus, on March 22, 2018, Tdh Moldova launched the study "Preventing juvenile delinquency in the Republic of Moldova", conducted by Liliana Astrahan, child protection specialist within the organization.
The event took place during a meeting for resource persons of the ChildHub regional platform – a hub for child protection professionals in South Eastern Europe. The meeting brought together professionals from justice, social protection and educational system, both from Chisinau and from different regions of the country, who work directly with children with deviant behaviors.
The study aimed to analyze the situation of children and the level of juvenile delinquency in the Republic of Moldova; to identify the factors that define deviant behaviors in children and methods of prevention; and to evaluate two juvenile delinquency prevention programs developed and tested by Tdh Moldova in several communities around the country. Children, parents, and professionals from relevant sectors attended the study. Questionnaires, focus groups, observations, case studies, and statistics on juvenile criminality for the years 2000-2016 were used for data collection.
A curious and very worrying fact the study reveals is that, although the number of children is decreasing in demographic terms (19% of the total population in 2016 compared to 29% in 2000), the juvenile infractionality rate is rising. 2004 was the year with the highest number of juvenile delinquents; from 2004 to 2009 the numbers have dropped, but between 2009 and 2016, despite the decrease of children number in the country, the statistical data show an increase of juvenile crime level.
An alarming fact is also the raise of children number committing delicts, being under the age of criminal responsibility, public registers certify such data starting 2010. At the same time, the number of delinquencies committed for the first time increased: General Police Inspectorate reports show that, starting 2013, out of the total number of children with delinquent behavior, 98% are children who commit criminal offenses for the first time.
In most cases of juvenile delinquency, children are victims of domestic, institutional or community violence and neglect. According to the surveyed professionals, most children come from socially vulnerable families, where parents lack the skills and necessary resources to solve the problems that arise and do not know how to respond to children's needs. At the same time, they say, there are also children from "good families" - the reasons that push them towards illicit behaviors are lack of communication and inefficient relationship with their parents and lack of supervision. At community level, among the reasons of juvenile delinquency, professionals emphasized the lack of extracurricular activities.
Thus, the author of the study recommends that juvenile delinquency prevention programs, for maximum efficiency, should aim primarily family-oriented and family support services, because a child is happy and grows harmoniously when he/she has a balanced family environment. Another very important aspect are school-oriented services, since children spend most of the time at school and they need to enjoy a safe space and to have conditions for aggression prevention. At the same time, it is preferable for prevention programs to last for a minimum of two years and to focus, in particular, on the development of children's social competences.
The study also noted the need for programs targeted at all stakeholders - children, parents and professionals – and a multidisciplinary intervention oriented. Unfortunately, there are too few juvenile delinquency prevention programs in the Republic of Moldova, and the existing ones are sporadic and short-term. In order to prevent juvenile delinquency, reforming approaches are needed across multiple systems, the educational system, however, having a primary role.