TBILISI | In 2004, some 5,200 Georgian children were living in Soviet-era institutions for underprivileged and disabled minors. Today, there are just 100, seemingly a sign that Georgia’s ambitious Child Action Plan – which aimed to reintegrate socially vulnerable kids into their biological families or, failing that, get them into foster care or alternative types of support – has worked. By contrast, neighboring Armenia, with a somewhat smaller population, still houses 4,900 kids, most of whom have families, at its aging children’s homes.
But there is a flip side to Georgia’s seeming success: unlike in Armenia, street children – minors who spend most of their time roaming the cities, in many cases sleeping rough – have become increasingly visible in the capital of Tbilisi and other urban centers like Kutaisi and Batumi.
“The process of de-institutionalization started in 2000 and out of 42 institutions, only five are left today,” said Andro Dadiani, Georgia director for international children’s rights group EveryChild. “De-institutionalization has obviously contributed to the problem [of street children], and especially ill-prepared reintegration.