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NGOs Call for Halt to Returning Children in Institutional Care Centers from Poland to Ukraine

FAIRFIELD, Conn. (May 15, 2023)—Save the Children, International Rescue Committee, and CARE today call for an immediate stop to the return of children in institutional care centers from Poland to Ukraine.

The three international humanitarian organizations supporting refugees in Poland are deeply concerned about reports that children from institutional care centers are being sent back to Ukraine without an assessment of whether this is in their best interests[1] and without coordinated preparation and planning.

Many of the children facing return in the next hours and days have disabilities, health conditions, and developmental delays that require a high level of support. This support cannot be guaranteed while travelling without careful planning and substantial support from child protection experts.

In addition, many of the children come from, and might be returned to, areas of Ukraine affected by conflict, continued aerial bombardment (such as Odessa, Zaporizhzhia, and Dnipro), and where infrastructure and services are damaged and limited. 

“We therefore call for an immediate stop of returns of children in the care of the government of Poland to Ukraine until best interest procedures and mechanisms are established in collaboration with relevant international organizations,” they said in a joint statement.

The first response should be to improve the situation and condition where children are living in Poland rather than moving them to a country with ongoing active hostilities. “Prioritizing placing children in family-based forms of care in host countries would reduce the risks of the poor conditions and treatment of children in institutions and the potential return to the unsafe areas. Children should not be suffering from the political decisions while policy solutions should prioritize family-based care,” the organizations said.

The three NGOs are working to establish how many children are affected at present. They said they stand ready to support and work with authorities and other actors to take immediate, coordinated action to achieve the following aims:

  • Work collaboratively on procedures to ensure that any returns to Ukraine take place only when it is safe, voluntary, and in the best interests of the individual child.
  • Ensure each child is assigned a government social worker or non-governmental organization (Foundation) caseworker who visits regularly to implement an individual care plan that meets the unique needs of each child.
  • Establish a learning and support program to build the capacity of caregivers and legal guardians caring for children.
  • Promote quality family-based care based on the child's individual needs & desires including:
    • Establishing a cross-border family tracing and reunification program in coordination with key actors.
    • Ensuring that children (starting with the youngest as a matter of urgency) are transitioned to family-based care and de-institutionalized. 


  • Save the Children International (Poland)
  • International Rescue Committee
  • CARE International


 [1] The best interests of the child is a threefold concept: it is a substantive right, a fundamental legal principle, and a rule of procedure. The principle of best interests applies to all children without discrimination, regardless of a child’s guardianship or legal status. The principle of the best interests of the child requires States to establish procedures and mechanisms with which to assess and determine the best interests of all children under their jurisdiction.

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