November 22 2010

Kim Clijsters and SOS Children's Villages urge EU decision-makers to strengthen families and end child poverty

22/11/2010 - On the occasion of the Universal Day of Children on 20 November, SOS Children's Villages organised two round tables entitled "Breaking the poverty cycle: Strengthening families and communities" in the European Parliament on 18/19 November. Among many other participants were world-class tennis player and SOS Children's Villages Ambassador Kim Clijsters and her husband Brian Lynch who called for EU policy makers to continue to support families and fight child poverty.

In Europe, 20 million children are living at risk of poverty. On a global level, around 1.4 billion people live below the poverty line despite having a job. The current economic crisis means families and their children are even more vulnerable of becoming entrapped in the poverty cycle. Once this happens, many parents can not care adequately for their children anymore because they lack the financial means and material support. This often leads to children being separated from their families and placed in alternative care. In Europe, around one million children live in alternative care, 25,000 of them in institutions. In many cases, poverty was the main cause for the family breakup.

World-class tennis player Kim Clijsters and her husband Brian Lynch, parents of a three-year-old daughter themselves, joined the events organised by SOS Children's Villages and appealed to EU decision-makers to strengthen families and end child poverty. As Clijsters pointed out: "Children not growing up in a family, face a heightened risk of emotional insecurity, educational failure, abuse and violence. These are the harsh facts. Not only in third world countries, but also here in Europe. That’s why you’re here, at the very heart of the European Institutions, debating. That’s why we’re here, supporting your debate. It should be a basic right for every child to grow up in the warmth of a family.”

The European Union was represented by Véronique de Keyser, Member of the European Parliament, and Philipp Courard, Belgian Secretary of State for Social Integration and Combating Poverty. Belgium holds the EU Presidency until the end of 2010.

The events also marked the 1st anniversary of the UN General Assembly officially welcoming the "Guidelines for the Alternative Care of Children". The guidelines define the crucial role of governments in preventing child abandonment and strengthening families, and demand that no child be separated from his/her parents due to poverty.

Jan Jarab, Regional Representative of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, highlighted the role of the EU: "The European Union has to be a driving force in keeping families together and ending child poverty. All EU member states are urged to provide the necessary support and create the required structures in their countries". Jana Hainsworth, Secretary General of Eurochild, added: "This process should also take the views of children and families affected by poverty into account".

How important it is to listen to children and their families became clear when a Belgian mother whose three children live in alternative care told her story: "We are not a file on your desk, we are not numbers. You need to listen to us, to our stories, to find solutions that really work."

Helmut Kutin, President of SOS Children's Villages, highlighted the urgency of this topic: "Strong children can only find a loving home in strong families, and families need our strong support, especially in this time of crisis. We don't just want to give children a future – children need a good present. The future starts today. Here. Now."

STRONG FAMILIES, STRONG CHILDREN - the latest publication of SOS Children's Villages.