Children’s Ombudsman has advice for Greek parents

Children in Greece complain that adults are rarely available to talk to about their problems, according to the director of the Children’s Rights Department of the Ombudsman’s Bureau, Giorgos Moschos, speaking in advance of State of the World’s Children Day by UNICEF, today, December 11, also the birthday of UNICEF. Moschos said his department, set up in June of last year, has visited 22 children’s shelters, 14 schools (where there are many children from minority groups, such as immigrants and Gypsies, as well as disabled children), nurseries and playgrounds. Apart from the lack of real contact with adults, the children also found fault with the standard of facilities, such as toilets, at these centers. «We have to listen to our children and to act as a loudspeaker for their problems,» Moschos advised parents, teachers and others working with children. He said children complained about the problem of cleanliness in the areas they frequented, and their lack of free time due to pressure to do well at school. According to a report by the department, which received 300 written complaints and a large number of telephone calls, 43 percent of the complaints they received were related to education issues, and 16 percent to nurseries, foundations, health and welfare issues. Ombudsman Giorgos Kaminis said there is a lack of infrastructure and specialized staff working with children. Moschos called for a reorganization of the children’s protection system and charged that the practice of fostering does not function properly. He also called for speeding up adoption procedures so that people will not have resort to private adoptions. Seven percent of complaints received by the Children’s Ombudsman concerned violence within families and child abuse, a relatively low figure, said Moschos, adding that among all members of the Organization for Cooperation and Development (OECD) Greece also had the second-lowest percentage of children dying as a result of abuse, according to UNICEF. Over the world as a whole, 640 million children do not have proper housing, 500 million do not have access to hygiene facilities, 140 million children do not attend school and another 90 million do not get enough to eat. The main message of December 11, said Moschos, was that children should not only be protected from the more obvious forms of abuse, such as violence, exploitation and discrimination, but that their needs for care, education, health, communication, participation and recognition should also be met.