Alarmingly, there are no official data available on the exact number of children living in Greek institutions.
According to the Roots Research Center, in 2005, there were about 3200 children (including 200 children with disabilities) placed in public institutions. It is estimated that there are as
many children in privately-run institutions, with no government oversight, as there are in government-run centres. The Ministry of Social Affairs has given Roots Research Center approval to conduct a survey to determine the amount of children placed in institutional care in 2015.
Despite the damage that institutions are known to inflict on children’s development, privately-run institutions are funded largely through charity donations from the Greek people and through national ministries, public and private institutions are still financed with EU funds.
There are no real alternatives to institutions available for children or for families, which lack services and support to prevent their breakdown. Foster care programmes are very limited and as a result the number of children and babies who end up in institutional care is growing. A new law on foster care was drafted in 2014 but is still awaiting approval. Adoption is an option for some, but this means permanently severing the relationship with their biological families, which might be inappropriate or unnecessary, and there are no data on the existence of Small Group Homes.
In Greece there is no integrated strategy for deinstitutionalisation (DI). Targets that have been set as part of a recent Plan of Action for the rights of the child risk to remain empty promises without integrated policy reforms, consulted with civil society, to support them.
Children and young people can stay in segregating care facilities until they turn 18, after that age they are left on their own. No additional services to support care leavers are provided: no financial aid, nor employment or accommodation.
The demand for alternative care services is increasing due to the financial crisis, and young adults with disabilities who have grown up in foster families are even being transferred back to institutions due to public spending cuts to financial support to foster families for health care and education. Neither the Government nor the few NGOs working on the issue are in a position to meet these demands.
More recent figures from Greece are expected to become available later this year and an updated factsheet will be produced.