On 27 June 2019, the Assembly of the Republic of Kosovo adopted the Law on Child Protection, a significant achievement and milestone in the protection of children’s rights. Since 2013, Terre des hommes (Tdh) has promoted the need to legally guarantee children’s protection in Kosovo, and since 2015 it actively contributed to the drafting of the law, and advocated for its adoption. Tdh will further support national and local authorities and professionals in implementing the law.
We spoke with Agron Seferi, Tdh Case Manager Specialist in Kosovo, who was part of the process on behalf of civil society.
What are the law’s main stipulations and what does this mean for children in Kosovo?
First of all, in all matters concerning children, the law puts the best interest of the child first. It guarantees the protection of children against all forms of physical and mental violence, abuse, exploitation, neglect or any other form that endangers the life, safety, health, education, and development of children. Importantly, all children are protected through this law. Previously, some groups of children, such as internally displaced, stateless, asylum-seeker and refugee children were not specifically protected by any other law within the Kosovo legal system.
The law makes clear the responsibilities of parents, families, society, and the state in children’s upbringing, care, protection, and development. In practical terms, an integrated child protection system has been set up providing effective mechanisms, proper coordination among all relevant institutions and stakeholders, and concrete measures to prevent and respond to all forms of violence, and to protect the child. Prior to this law, the protection of children was distributed among various laws, thus creating numerous challenges, such as poor coordination and lack of funding for specialised services.
The Law on Child Protection also sets the groundwork for further policies and legislation aiming to ensure the good functioning and development of the child protection field.
How will the law impact the work of child protection professionals?
The law provides adequate funding for social services, including a decentralised grant mechanism which will allow for establishing and financing specialized services according to the needs of a municipality. Thus, the availability and quality of services will improve and professionals will be able to better perform their duties. An important advancement is that municipalities shall designate at least one child-protection worker. By comparison, in the past, child protection issues were dealt with by the social worker who had numerous other responsibilities, including various categories of adult beneficiaries.
The child protection worker is to lead the multidisciplinary case management roundtables which became mandatory with this law. By bringing together all professionals working with children, such as teachers and psychologists, legal and medical professionals, and representatives of authorities, the roundtables tackle child protection cases in a comprehensive manner. Additionally, a team for the rights of the child, having a political decision-making role, has been established in each municipality. This team will follow up on the implementation of the law and policies, and define a municipality’s priorities and the necessary measures to improve the situation regarding the rights and protection of children.
What was the role of the civil society in advancing this law?
Since the very beginning, civil society has played a crucial role. The initiative for a child protection law comes from civil society. Civil society organisations (CSOs) were part of the governmental working group responsible for this law, provided expertise on the content of the law, shared international good practices, drafted sub-legal acts, and monitored the whole process. CSOs also emphasised the need for establishing and implementing specific grants for social services. At the same time, these organisations provided continuous trainings to improve the capacity of professionals at local and national levels, while also addressing child protection issues.
How was Tdh involved in this process?
Tdh has been part of the whole process. Initially, we drafted the law together with the Prime Minister’s Legal Office and Office of Good Governance. Tdh supported the working group on Child Protection Law, and more specifically, contributed to articles on establishing multidisciplinary case management roundtables and appointing child protection workers in all municipalities, as well as on the child protection role of local authorities.
As an organisation, we have extensive international experience in case management and multidisciplinary teams, which proved to be effective for the protection of children. Prior to this law, Tdh had established case management roundtables in 32 municipalities in Kosovo. Therefore, we were glad to help bring our experience into the law.
How will Tdh support the implementation of the law?
Tdh works with all relevant actors at the local and central level to ensure that the law is properly implemented. We continue to support social workers, and the leaders and members of case management roundtables, by providing training on child protection issues and the principles of case management, and coaching and mentoring on complex cases. We also share good practices and organise workshops for experience exchange.
We collaborate with community councils to raise awareness on child protection issues among community members and to strength the mechanism of identification and referral of cases.
Three sub-legal acts will soon be established with the support of Tdh. These acts refer to the standards for the provision of child protection services, to the functioning of multidisciplinary roundtables, and to the measures for identifying, reporting, referring and investigating cases of violence, neglect, and abuse against children. Being part of the Coalition of NGOs on Child Protection, we continue to address child protection issues at the national level and to monitor the implementation of the law.