Orphanages "a Relic of the Soviet Era," Says Lithuanian President

The president of Lithuania has dismissed orphanages as Soviet-era relics and said children in the country are held hostage by the bureaucracy. Lithuania spends over 33 million euros each year on residential institutions for children.

In a meeting with the minister of social security and labour last week, Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaitė focused on the deliberate delays to the restructuring of the country's orphanages. According to Ms. Grybauskaitė, instead of reducing the number of orphanages, the state continues to fund bureaucracy.

"For a decade now, the Ministry of Social Security and Labour has been in charge of the restructuring childcare, but there are still no results to be seen - apart from fruitless work group discussions. Orphanages are a relic of the Soviet era, whose managers are greatly interested in ensuring that they continue to exist. Children have become hostages to the bureaucracy and its desire to appropriate funds," said the president.

According to the president, the state must enable children to live in a family environment instead of supporting an ineffective system.

A vision for the future – a country without orphanages

Lithuanian NGOs have long been critical of the state's inaction in the field of childcare reform and its lack of response to children's rights violations happening daily behind the walls of closed-type institutions.

In 2013, the Human Rights Monitoring Institute and 10 other Lithuanian children's rights NGOs formed a coalition in an effort to break the gridlock on child care reform. The NGOs launched a campaign titled "A Country Without Orphanages," collecting signatures for the petition "On the Use of EU Structural Funds for the Reform of Child Care and for Investing in Families and Children."

33.5 million euros a year to support a flawed system

At the time of writing, there are almost 100 residential care institutions housing almost 4,000 children in Lithuania, costing the state at least 33.5 million euros a year. The state pays around 1,800 euros a month to keep a child in an institution - meanwhile, a measly 300 euros a month is given for children being raised in a group home and only 150 euros for children placed in a family. Families that adopt children get no support at all.

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