The Network of Organizations for Children in Serbia (MODS), and Center for Youth Integration (CYI), express their concern over a directive issued by the Ministry of Labour, Employment, Veterans' Affairs and Social Affairs to all centres for social work in the Republic of Serbia, which refers to ‘children who live or work on the street’.
According to the directive, centres for social work are obliged to organize meetings with police administrators or police stations, and, in urgent cases, remove the child from their parents’ care if the child ‘lives and works on the street’.
‘We recall that our country actively participated in the preparation of a document adopted by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (General Comment No. 21 on Children in a Street Situation) which gives guidance to the state to support children in a street situation, rather than taking them away from parents and initiating proceedings in court.’
This directive is in conflict with the proclaimed policy of the Government of the Republic of Serbia and the Ministry of Labor, Employment, Veterans' Affairs and Social Affairs, to protect the primary family, support the family, reduce the poverty of children, and social and economic inequalities in society.
We call on the Government of the Republic of Serbia and the competent ministry to launch an affirmative action to support poorer families, families living in extreme poverty, families that develop survival strategies, children living in uninhabitable homes, and children who want to live with access to showers and toilets in the 21st century.
We believe that it is in the interests of children, and even the state itself, to provide support to parents to ensure a dignified life for their children, rather than separating them from their families.
If the state wants to help children in a street situation, we believe that there are other, more effective ways that will prove more successful in the long run than drastic calls for child abduction. This does not solve the child’s problem, but rather creates a number of new problems for the child and their parents.