News

Breaking the silence!

Insights from the European REYN Early Childhood Research Study (REYN Study) commissioned by the International Step by Step Association (ISSA),  uncover a strong and recurrent pattern of discrimination experienced by Roma families with young children. This discrimination permeates various aspects of their lives,  from access to public services, early learning and education to housing and healthcare.  

A Snapshot of REYN Study findings on discrimination

In countries like Kosovo, families express fear of prejudice and stereotypes in schools and kindergartens, which hinders them from sending their children to these institutions. In Slovakia, professionals note that Roma families often face financial challenges and exclusion, highlighting economic discrimination. In Hungary, there’s a clear need for strategic planning and research on outcomes related to Roma children, indicating neglect at an institutional level.

The impact of discrimination on Early Childhood Development

The first thousand days of a child’s life are crucial for their optimal development and the realization of their full and unique potential. Adverse conditions, such as discrimination and exclusion, can have long-term consequences on children’s physical and mental development, resulting in social inequalities that affect the rest of their lives. Research from the Center on the Developing Child from Harvard University demonstrates that chronic stress and exclusion, common experiences among Roma children, can disrupt brain development, impair learning and memory, and increase susceptibility to chronic diseases.

Young Roma children in Europe: Areas of discrimination

  1. Public Services: Nearly six out of ten Roma families report experiencing discrimination in accessing public services. This not only hinders their access to essential resources such as libraries or playgrounds, but also erodes trust in these services, further isolating Roma communities. Healthcare: More than half of Roma families encounter discrimination in healthcare settings, which discourages them from seeking necessary medical care. This neglect can lead to health disparities that impact a children’s physical and cognitive development.
  2. Early learning opportunities: Discrimination in educational settings is particularly concerning. A significant proportion of Roma children face biases that affect their educational journey from an early age, creating barriers to their learning potential and setting a precedent for future educational hurdles.

The urgency for inclusive policies

“What surrounds us shapes us1 — the environments that influence early childhood shape lifelong outcomes. For Roma children, who face systemic exclusions and bias, these environments are often far from supportive. The REYN Study’s comprehensive insights into the discrimination faced by Roma families underscore the urgent need for targeted and inclusive policies that address these deep-rooted issues, aiming to provide a fair start for all children. It is a call to action for policymakers, educators, and society at large to break the cycle of discrimination and ensure that every child, regardless of their background, has an equal chance to thrive.

These findings from the REYN Study are a powerful reminder that the fight against discrimination is not over. The journey toward equity and inclusion for young Roma children is a collective responsibility that demands attention, empathy, and decisive action.


1 Harvard Center on Developing Child – Places matter- https://developingchild.harvard.edu/resources/place-matters-what-surrounds-us-shapes-us/


8 April – REYN gives visibility to young Roma children affected by the war in Ukraine

This day last year, when we marked the 50th International Roma Day, we enthusiastically looked toward a better Europe for all, emphasizing the fundamental need for equality, inclusion, and participation to fight antigypsyism — we all hoped this year would be different.

But, one year later, the persistent discrimination and social inequalities that Roma in Ukraine face are only exacerbated by war. Roma are encountering additional hardships when seeking humanitarian assistance to meet their most basic needs, even while trying to cross borders to safety.

Today, we want to tell you the stories of young Roma children and their families experiencing additional adversity due to the war and share one organization’s work to bring hope on this 51st International Roma Day.

Hear me – See me – Stand with me tells the story of the REYN Ukraine‘s remarkable work, acknowledging their tireless efforts to create safe and welcoming spaces for Roma families fleeing war zones. A Station of Hope serves as a safe haven; it provides a welcoming environment where children can express themselves, be heard, play, and interact with peers. At the same time, parents can engage with professionals, learn, and support one another. Despite the harsh environment of war, a Station of Hope succeeds in building community and creating a sense of normalcy for children and their families.

Watch the video here. How will you contribute to making 2022 different for young Roma children and their families? Will you hear Roma, see Roma, stand with Roma? Take to Twitter with the hashtag #standwithRoma to join the conversation.

Khetaun sam zoraleder. Opre Roma! / Together, we grow stronger. Rise up Roma! 

We stand for all young children and families impacted by the war in Ukraine

From the first day of the war in Ukraine, the ISSA Network mobilized itself to respond to this horrendous crisis. We are in regular contact with our member organizations in Ukraine, which continue to work on behalf of young children, even in life-threatening circumstances. Together with our wider membership and partners, we provide emergency support to young children in Romani communities in a region in Western Ukraine. We are actively supporting and connecting members and partners in neighboring countries, where hundreds of thousands of refugees are fleeing. Together, we strive to ensure that the early childhood development related support offered to refugee families has a strong trauma-informed component.

We need your support to continue in these efforts, as it becomes more and more evident how enormous the needs are and the roll-on effects of this crisis.

Young children are disproportionately affected during times of war. The instability and resulting wounds and trauma inflicted on children and families living in Ukraine, and those fleeing the violence, will be long lasting from generation to generation. The global community must act now. At ISSA, we continue our tireless work towards our vision of a society where families, communities and professionals work together to empower each child to reach their unique potential and embrace values of social justice and equity.

We raise our voice together with international partners at ECDAN, ECPC, ARNEC, AfCEN, ANECD, and Moving Minds Alliance in this joint statement in EnglishUkrainian and Russian, and in this editorial, together with Eurochild, our European partner in the First Years, First Priority Campaign on ECD.

Henriette Heimgaertner, ISSA President                                                                             
Liana Ghent, Director of ISSA

TOY for Inclusion training inspires coordinators of new Play Hubs

This week eight candidates to be Play Hubs coordinator attended a three-day training in Croatia. “I felt understood; people accepted me as I am,” said trainee Tatiana Pastorekova.

Eight new TOY for Inclusion Play Hubs will open in 2020. The in-training coordinators followed a three-day international training session in Sisak (Croatia) this week.

“I like to work with children and people. It is in my heart and I want to give something back to society”, said one of the trainees, Tatiana Pastorekova. She is a preschool teacher and has been selected as a coordinator of the Play Hub that will open in Roskovce (Slovakia) next year.

The in-training coordinators have learned the TOY for Inclusion approach, which integrates four building blocks: community based early childhood education and care; social inclusion and respect for diversity; intergenerational learning; integrated services.

“The coordinators will work in different countries and settings, it is therefore important to set a shared vision. Also, the coordinators have learned the TOY for Inclusion approach and received suggestions on how to run such a space”, says Valentina Erba, Trainer of Associazione 21 Luglio.

“As a teacher, I came here already with a theoretical background but I really liked the sessions focusing on practical activities and tips on how to run a Play Hub,” Ms. Pastorekova concluded.  

In the photos you can see some of the activities that the trainees could observe at the local Toy for Inclusion Play Hub.

Read more about Toy for Inclusion here.

Do children have access to quality education in your country?

- News

Today it’s World Children’s Day! Our gif image below celebrates the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child which says that all children have the right to good education.

Today, it is also time to remember that hundreds of thousands of children are still denied the right to a good education because of poverty, disability or discrimination.

The evidence is clear, quality early childhood education makes a great deal of difference in the life of a human being. According to research done in North Dakota, the peak of brain development takes place before the child turns one.

Another study, showed that stimulation of toddlers in Jamaica through one-hour weekly visits of community health workers over a period of two years, increased their average earnings as adults by 42 percent.

Children’s early development is determined by supportive family and community child care practices, appropriate nutrition and health care, quality learning opportunities, and protection from risk, UNICEF says.

Do children have access to quality education in your country? Let us know on Facebook or by sending an email to us!