Breaking the silence: a month of raising awareness about the status of young Roma children in Europe

The REYN Study unveils a critical truth: young Roma children across Europe grapple with challenges that touch every facet of their lives – social, physical, cognitive, and emotional well-being. It is a story that needs to be told, and we’re committed to bringing it to the forefront.

In a powerful move to amplify these voices, starting today – International Roma Day (April 8th) – and continuing every Monday in April, REYN, an initiative of the International Step by Step Association (ISSA) will unveil a series of compelling facts on different key areas that profoundly influence the development and overall well-being of Roma children.

This journey is not just ours – it’s yours too. Join us in breaking the silence and casting a spotlight on the lives of young Roma children.

Get involved, make an impact, and be a part of this vital conversation. Use our hashtags #EURomachildren, #InternationalRomaDay to connect, engage, and spread the word. Together, we can turn awareness into action for a brighter future for Roma children.

Every child deserves and has the right to grow up in an environment of safety and security. But Roma children often encounter environments marked by physical dangers and environmental risks. For example, according to data collected under REYN Study, three out of ten Roma children grow up in unsafe neighbourhoods. In addition, their parents face financial barriers and are unable to secure a more stable living situation. Four out of ten Roma families with children under six who participated in the research do not receive any kind of subsidy or similar. Evidence emphasizes the need for stronger social safety nets and financial support systems for vulnerable Roma families with young children.

Safety and security concerns arise from barriers to accessing social security or social protection, as well as growing up in neighbourhoods exposed to crime, violence, and vandalism.

Beyond the immediate challenges in their physical surroundings, Roma children also face barriers in terms of their exposure to formal, non-formal, or informal learning environments, which are crucial for their holistic development. When looking at the early learning opportunities and experiences of young Roma children, the REYN Study reveals multi-layered barriers and challenges hindering their access and full participation in ECEC services. On average, according to the data collected, 47% of young Roma children are deprived of these essential services in their neighborhoods (and 59% of children under the age of three). The disparities extend to essential public spaces like parks, playgrounds, health facilities, and cultural centers – vital amenities that can enrich a child’s learning experiences and support growth. Segregation in classrooms, cultural insensitivity, and resource deficiencies with persistent language barriers (seven out of ten Roma children do not understand the main language of instruction) all determine the quality of services, which ultimately impacts upon their academic and developmental prospects.

Research in early childhood underscores the pivotal role parents play during the formative years of their children’s lives. The REYN Study brings to the forefront the concept of responsive parenting—a key driver of emotional and cognitive growth in children. It reveals the commitment of numerous Roma parents to foster a supportive environment for their children, despite facing systemic discrimination and socio-economic challenges. A significant majority (89%) of parents consistently engage with their infants, responding through sounds, facial expressions, and gestures. However, the study also uncovers a prevalent gap in parental access to essential resources and information on child development and the critical role of play, which in turn affects their ability to practice responsive parenting effectively.