Child rights

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Reminder of Responsibility for Fire Casualties in Velika Krsna

Statement by MODS

The Network of Organisations for the Children of Serbia (MODS) expresses its deep distress for the tragic death of three children caused by fire in Velika Krsna.

This event is a consequence of the situation in society and conditions in the system for protecting children and supporting parents, taking into consideration that parents are not receiving support, which is the fact we have been reiterating. We are afraid that a lesson might not be learned from this tragedy and that no much-needed changes will be made.

We have been pointing out to the lack of cooperation between the various services at the local and national levels, which are responsible for the protection of children. There is a lack of services and support at the local level for families with children, especially the poor and single-parent ones.

The question is raised of whether domiciliary care teams report about the cases of child neglect? Do domiciliary care teams inform the Social Welfare Centres about that? What does the Social Welfare Centres do to prevent such a tragedy? How do local self-governments plan social policy and protection of children?

It is easy to condemn the mother for this tragedy and to say that everyone in the neighbourhood knew what was going on, but no one reacted in time.

We tend to forget that she is not the only mother who was left alone with children and without job. We tend to forget that she was left without the support of close ones, family or neighbourhood. It is a moral (and legal) obligation of each individual to react and report any suspicion of child neglect and abuse. Because it concerns all of us and in this case all of us bear the consequences.

If as a society we do not learn the lesson, if we do not become aware that every one of us holds the responsibility for inaction, we are afraid that we will soon be informed by the media about a new tragedy whose victims will be our youngest citizens.
We therefore call on the public authorities and relevant ministries of health and social protection to understand the tragic event in Velika Krsna, in which three children lost their lives, as a final warning and alert to take all measures to prevent such terrible events in the future.

We enclose also the statement of Smiljka Tomanović, Professor at the Department of Sociology, Faculty of Philosophy in Belgrade:

"The latest tragic event that killed three children has opened several difficult and important questions, which are raised from time to time and are unfortunately repetitive, because they are not responded with actions.

Firstly, why do we lack state support for responsible parenting and institutional support at the local level, especially for the families at risk, such as single-parent ones?

Why are the competent institutions, almost as a rule, "uninformed" and "taken aback" by the events or "cases" occurring in the territory of their competence?

Then, what is being done to protect children from neglect and abuse, that is, what kind of sanctions are imposed in case of child neglect?

According to the 2005 Law on Family, it is not allowed to leave preschool children without adult supervision and the public should be continuously informed about that, in order to encourage more responsible parenting and to help parents who need help in child care.

Why, according to the (non-binding) Protocol on the Protection of Children from Abuse and Neglect, do we not punish those who have failed to act despite being witnesses of or suspecting neglect and abuse, regardless of whether they are state officials or citizens (parents, relatives, neighbours, friends)?

Finally, when will the media stop using human and family tragedies and abusing children to increase the number of copies sold?

There are many bad mistakes, many responsible persons, plenty of blame shifting. It is time to put an end to it, so that we as a society finally learn a lesson from one more tragedy and begin to act."

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