May 13 2004
Abuse and Neglect of Children in Western Europe - International Day of Families
Innsbruck (13 May 2004) - Child abuse and neglect occurs in all countries around the world. On the tenth anniversary of the International Year of the Family, SOS Children's Villages expresses its concern about the problem of domestic violence in Western Europe, which more often than not results in child abuse and neglect.
"Violence within families continues to cast a dark cloud over the lives of many children in Western Europe," said the Secretary-General of SOS Children's Villages, Richard Pichler. "The goal of all stakeholders involved must be to ensure that all children, whether in Western Europe or around the globe, are entitled to a life without abuse and neglect as foreseen in the Convention on the Rights of the Child."
Child maltreatment and domestic abuse is a leading cause for the loss of parental care in Western Europe. Its causes are many but are frequently linked with financial and psychological stress within families, which in turn may be linked with alcohol and drug abuse. The true extent of the tragedy, however, is not known due to a lack of proper definition and documentation.
Although documented child maltreatment deaths have declined over the past years, the numbers remain high. In France, an average of three children per week dies as a result of physical abuse and neglect, while in Germany and the United Kingdom, two per week suffer such fates. Legislation explicitly forbidding the physical punishment of children exists only in Austria, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Iceland, Norway and Sweden.*
Children who suffered from abuse and neglect are often lacking in self-confidence, and have difficulties learning and communicating with others. If not provided with adequate treatment, these children have greater tendencies towards extreme passivity, suicide and alcohol and drug abuse.
SOS Children's Villages has been providing care and therapy for maltreated children in Western Europe for over 50 years. At an SOS Children's Village, long-term care in a family environment is provided for children whose parents are unable to care for them. In addition, the organisation has also set up various family-counselling programmes, intended to help families before their problems escalate, and is also providing temporary care for children whose families are in crisis situations.
An example of temporary care provision is the SIMBA programme in Austria, a country in which some 21,000 children are looked after by state child welfare measures per year. Through SIMBA, SOS Children's Villages offers short and medium-term care for children who were temporarily removed from their families. The children undergo medical examinations and receive therapy, while their parents are provided with counselling and guidance on child upbringing. Although the goal is to enable children to return to their families as soon as possible, only one-third are able to do so.
Among its many family-counselling programmes for families and their children, SOS Children's Villages has been operating a prevention centre in Germany - situated in a suburb of Munich, where the majority of the families are either impoverished or immigrants and asylum seekers. Socially disadvantaged families are helped through various educational, prevention and advice workshops, which are specially tailored to meet the needs of the individuals. Among others, the centre offers therapeutic children's play sessions, as well as programmes for young mother's living on welfare and courses for adults on psychological and health-related matters.
SOS Children's Villages is a non-governmental and non-denominational organisation providing long-term care for orphaned, abandoned and destitute children in 131 countries and territories. Some 56,000 children and youths receive family-based care at more than 440 SOS Children's Villages. These operate according to four basic principles that provide children with a mother/parent, siblings, a family house and a village. Some 130,000 children and youths attend the organisation's kindergartens, schools and vocational training centres. Over 500,000 people, including families at risk of abandoning their children, benefit from SOS Social and Medical Centres. Among others, these programmes include day-care centres for children and specialised skills training for impoverished families in Latin America and Asia, as well as assistance for child and grandparent headed families affected by AIDS in Africa and family counselling programmes in Europe.
*Statistics: UNICEF-Innocenti Report: "Child Maltreatment Deaths in Rich Nations", August 2003
Ms Ingunn Brandvoll
SOS Children's Villages HQ
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org or
Ms Doris Kirchebner