Georgian Social Workers Request Creation of Care Centers for Homeless Children

The Georgian Social Workers' Union is calling on the state to place homeless children into 14-day quarantine and to set up alternative care centers for them to be placed in after being given a clean bill of health.

Social workers released a joint statement which notes that there are alternative forms of care in Georgia: small family homes, foster care and homeless shelters, but that all, due to the current coronavirus outbreak, are in quarantine. In addition to the 24-hour service centers, there is also a day center which provides services to minors throughout the day, but is unable to offer a safe haven for the at night.

The social workers say that homeless “street” children sleep in the metro or on buses, where there is a high risk of infection from coronavirus. That is why they are demanding the creation of alternative centers for them for quarantine and post-quarantine care.

“The existing day care center only provides services for minors in the daytime, offering a meal twice a day, psychological services and, if necessary, first aid,” the statement reads. But right now, they add, it is impossible to take street minors to any care centers because there is a risk that they will infect other children who live there.

“Homeless minors are not being transferred to the relevant medical facilities for quarantine, as they do not have the characteristic features of the virus, making it difficult for patrol police to identify cases needing quarantine if they see them,” they say.

The statement also reads that a few days ago, a minor girl escaped from one of the shelters, and if she is returned, there is a threat to other beneficiaries until she is checked for coronavirus.

“In order to prevent such risks and meet the needs of juvenile shelter beneficiaries, it is necessary to set up special quarantine areas for homeless minors and also to urgently create care centers for them, where they can be transferred after undergoing the isolation period,” the social workers noted. The human rights activists state that there is a need to focus more attention on the children, especially those in state care, during the coronavirus outbreak, when many families and care centers are in quarantine. They claim that many children not only in Georgia, but all around the world, will likely face increasing threats to their safety and well-being.

UNICEF also released a statement on the topic, saying children are at heightened risk of abuse, neglect, exploitation and violence amidst intensifying containment measures.

The organization says that school closures and movement restrictions are disrupting children's routines and support systems and are also putting pressure on caregivers who may have to stop work.

“UNICEF is urging governments to ensure the safety and well-being of children amidst the intensifying socioeconomic fallout from the disease...As part of the guidance, the Alliance is recommending that governments and protection authorities take concrete steps to ensure the protection of children is integral to all COVID-19 prevention and control measures,” the statement reads.

The organization says it is necessary that all countries train health, education and child service staff on COVID-19 related child protection risks and provide targeted support to interim care centers and families, including child-headed households and foster families, to emotionally support children and engage them in appropriate self-care.

By Tea Mariamidze

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26 March 2020 17:39