The National Network for Children sent a letter to the responsible institutions regarding its position on the case of single mother Theresa Kotseva from the town of Knezha. The association of civil society organizations working to improve the lives and welfare of Bulgarian children and families insists on the necessity of analysis and reform in the system of care for children.
Dear Ladies and Gentlemen,
We, the National Network for Children, a network of over 120 NGOs across the country, have been warning for several years that it is necessary to have a comprehensive family policy with clear objectives, measures and actions and the adoption of a family-oriented approach in all areas affecting children’s welfare – socio-economic measures, education, health-care, housing, child protection, social welfare and so on.
Our other recommendation is to place the focus on prevention, early intervention and support for parents in the process of deinstitutionalisation by encouraging the creation and development of enough, affordable types of services and forms of care for children (kindergartens, parent cooperatives and other forms of childcare), and adequate services for families in crisis situations (financial problems, divorce, family conflicts, the birth of a new child, inter-generational conflicts, et cetera).
For us, the case of the single mother of Theresa Kotseva from Knezha, whose children were taken away due to unpaid electricity bills, is indicative of the lack of effective and sustainable solutions in the sruggle against poverty and social exclusion. We consider it unacceptablefor the state, a member of the European Union, to separate children from their parents due to unpaid electricity bills!
The members of the National Network for Children from the ‘1st of June’ Association in Byala Slatina municipality are already working on the case by trying to help the mother to have her children returned and to be able to give them their due successful care.
Child poverty in Bulgaria continues to be the highest in Europe and since 2007, instead of heading towards a solution to the problem, it has sunk deeper and deeper. More than half of Bulgarian children, or 52.3% (637,000 children) are living at risk of poverty or social exclusion. This is almost two times more children than the EU average in this indicator, which is 28.1%.
Only 20 years from now, these children’s generation, to whom we as adults have not able to provide good educational and normal development opportunities, will be the generation that will operate and manage the country. Therefore, reducing the level of poverty among households with children should be one of the most important priorities of the country.
One of the key factors in this is the need to establish a comprehensive approach to support the child and family by linking social benefits to social work. The current system of income support, occurring mainly though social benefits and social security payments, often invests resources in family child-care late or, if it reacts in time, is not enough. Support should be granted following an individual assessment of the specific situation of the family, which addresses not only the income of the parents, attendence at compulsory pre-school education, et cetera, but also all the other factors that determine the ability of the family to care for their children.
The most serious problem, in our opinion, is that a discussion has still not really been started on a comprehensive reform of the structures responsible for children and families and ways to reform these structures. This includes a rethinking of the powers, the role and the place in the administrative function of the Agency for Social Support and the Departments for Child Protection which are part of this structure – the State Agency for Child Protection, central and local commissions for combating antisocial behavior by minors and the role of local authorities.
We believe that significant and meaningful reform which aims to solve the key problems in the system of care for children and that is in accordance with best European practice requires sufficient time and resources for analysis, careful evaluation of the various possibilities and broad public discussion, including with experts working in the field of policies for child protection.
We, at the National Network for Children, urge the Committee on Labour and Social Affairs at the National Assembly, as well as the Commission on Children, Youth and Sports and the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy, to launch a serious and thorough debate, based on a concrete analysis of what actions to take, in order for cases such as single mother Teresa Kotseva to be addressed by supporting the biological family of the child so that they take adequate care of their children and the children remain with their parents. Removal of children from the family must be only in extreme cases in which the state and society have exhausted all other possibilities to help the work, life and social adaptation of the family.
National Network for Children
Translator: Morgan James, volunteer