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.

REYN Season’s Greetings: Embracing our journey

As 2023 draws to a close, we at REYN pause to contemplate the journey we have made together. A journey marked with significant milestones and achievements reflecting our commitment to keeping young Roma children in the spotlight.
Notably, our collaborative efforts have been instrumental in breaking the silence about the status of young Roma children in Europe. Our partnership with the University of Barcelona led to the launch of the REYN Early Childhood Research Study, highlighting the status of young Roma children in Europe. This research is a testament to our commitment to informed advocacy and action.

We extend our deepest gratitude to our supporters, donors, National REYN members, partners, and friends, for your continued support and dedication. Together, we have been rewriting the stories of Roma children’s childhoods, and we will continue doing so.

Looking towards 2024, we remain dedicated to our vision of every young Roma child in Europe being visible, respected, and nurtured.

Looking ahead, we are filled with hope and renewed commitment. Together, let’s continue to work towards a society where every child has the opportunity to grow, develop, and thrive in an inclusive environment.

On behalf of the International Step by Step Association, we wish you a year full of hope, strength, and exciting stories. Let’s continue to build a world where diversity is celebrated, and every child is valued!

Kivaunijnas tumenge šukar sveci te bastalu nevu berš!

REYN Study: Stimulating data-informed decisions for young Roma children in Europe

The data collected in the research conducted by ISSA, through its REYN initiative, to analyse the situation of young Roma children and their families across 11 European countries, has led REYN to disseminate its findings urging decision-makers to include young Roma children in transformative early childhood policies and programs. The research has been developed in collaboration with researchers from the Centre of Roma Studies (CEG) at CREA – University of Barcelona.

Data on key areas impacting children’s development
By analyzing six key areas that impact the lives of young Roma children and their families (family status and living conditions, health and well-being, safety and security, early learning, responsive parenting and discrimination), the REYN Early Childhood Research Study (REYN Study) reveals the multiple challenges and barriers that young Roma children and their families face in these areas, such as poverty, social exclusion, poor health, low educational attainment, and limited access to quality services. It also highlights the strengths and resilience of Roma communities, as well as the potential of early childhood interventions to improve their outcomes and opportunities.

Informing and inspiring actions to transform the lives of young Roma children
Throughout 2023, in partnership with key stakeholders in Europe, REYN has organized several events and activities to share the study findings and stimulate decision-makers for the inclusion of young Roma children in transformative early childhood policies and programs. These include:

  • Unlocking the Potential of Young Roma Children in Europe”, a public event at the European Parliament (EP) hosted by Dr Milan Brglez, EP Member, during the Roma Week in Brussels, co-organized by REYN, the European Public Health Alliance (EPHA), Eurochild, and the Minority Initiative.
  • ISSA Connects for Learning, which featured the launch of a cross-country analysis of the REYN research. Held in Opatija, Croatia, the event was attended by REYN Nationals and ISSA Members.
  • Inclusion of Roma children in Early Childhood Education and Care”, an online event aimed at local governments and municipalities, recognizing their role in enhancing opportunities for marginalized groups at early stages, including Roma. This event was organized by Eurocities and UNICEF.

For updates or more information, subscribe to the REYN Newsletter or follow REYN on Facebook and X.

REYN Croatia Contributed to the NESET Report on Multilingualism

The in-service Bayash language course developed by the Open Academy Step by Step and REYN Croatia has been included as current practice that support multilingual children and families in the recently published NESET analytical Report “Working with multilingual children and families in early childhood education and care (ECEC): guidelines for continuous professional development of ECEC professionals”.

An increasing number of children are growing up in environments in which more than one language is spoken. For many of these children, early childhood education and care (ECEC) is often their first contact with the majority language of the country in which they are growing up. This situation adds to the crucial role that ECEC professionals play in children’s education.

Children from multilingual families bring an added richness to the ECEC centre. Their full language repertoire is both a resource for the child’s own holistic development, and enriches the learning experiences of the other children. Policy recommendations at European level, as well as the United Nations (UN) Convention on the Rights of the Child advocate for language learning from a young age and promotion of multilingual education in ECEC.

About the NESET Report

However, multilingualism presents specific challenges for ECEC professionals. To support multilingual children and families, ECEC staff must possess complex knowledge, skills and competences, as well as an understanding of child development and early childhood pedagogy. Many ECEC professionals feel an insecurity or lack of experience about working with multilingual children and families. In addition, educational practices are often geared toward monolingualism, and approach diversity and multilingualism as a problem instead of a resource. Multilingual parents (or non-native speakers of the institutional language) may also be uncertain when faced with making choices for their child, and often face barriers to engaging in reciprocal relationships with ECEC professionals.

Some of these challenges may be overcome through the participation of ECEC professionals in continuous professional development (CPD), which can positively impact the quality of pedagogical practices towards children and parents. However, CPD must be of high quality and must meet specific criteria – which, as evidenced by the findings of recent research, is not always guaranteed. CPD in relation to multilingualism in the ECEC context is often not attuned to the complex realities of multilingual families and may not always incorporate up-to-date scientific insights. To overcome this, CPD requires ongoing review and development. With this in mind, the purpose of this report is to formulate research- and practice-based policy recommendations for high-quality CPD to support ECEC professionals working with multilingual children and families.

You can find the full version of the report here. Find the summary in English here, in German here and in French here.

A Video with Young Roma Bulgarian Teacher Generates Over a Million Views

The Trust for Social Achievement Foundation, the host organization of REYN Bulgaria, is actively involved in implementing the Young Roma Teachers program, which aims to support young individuals of Roma origin who aspire to become kindergarten teachers. By building successful role models, the program contributes to the development of Roma children, fostering their motivation and desire to learn. This year, a series of videos were created to promote the program and showcase its successes.

The main goal of this initiative is to address the shortage of pedagogical professionals in kindergartens and to reduce unemployment among the Roma population in several Bulgarian municipalities. The program encompasses more than 60 talented Roma youths who have received financial assistance to pursue pedagogical education and have already enrolled in universities. By the summer of this year, 10 of them are expected to successfully graduate with bachelor’s degrees, while the number of students already working as teachers and teacher-assistants in kindergartens affiliated with the program is nearly twice as high.

Desi, an eager Roma student enrolled in the program, is set to embark on her journey as a teacher this autumn. “Today, I find myself in an entirely different environment – a working, independent woman,” she says.

Desi’s inspiring success story has garnered significant attention on social media platforms, creating additional publicity and raising awareness. Notably, the Bulgarian video showcasing her achievements has surpassed one million views and was even featured on national television.

  • Watch video in Bulgarian here.
  • Watch video in Bosnian here.
  • Watch video in Croatian here.
  • Watch video in German here.
  • Watch video in Serbian here.

Trust for Social Achievement Foundation – ISSA Member and REYN Bulgaria coordinator – supports professionals working with minority children in increasing the scope and quality of the services provided and unites the advocacy efforts of its members.

ISSA Member in Hungary Ensuring Roma Inclusion in Kindergartens

Starting in 2020 and funded by the European Union, the project “Inclusive kindergartens for the quality education of Roma – ending Roma segregation” operates in 11 kindergartens, reaching more than 1000 children. The project consortium is formed by the Municipality of Józsefváros (8th district of Budapest) – the most multicultural district of Budapest, Partners Hungary Foundation – an ISSA Member organization and REYN Hungary host organization – and the Rosa Parks Foundation.

The project aims to offer children with different ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds quality pre-school education – both for the disadvantaged and middle-class families.  Each kindergarten has to have a balanced mix of Roma, children with special educational needs and foreign children.

With the leadership committed to ending segregation, the municipality provided the methodology framework aiming to combat the discrimination and/or segregation of Roma children, enhanced the integration of students from various ethnic and social economic backgrounds, and adjusted the kindergartens’ pedagogical methodology to be inclusive and of high quality. One of the first steps for the development of the programme was to renovate the kindergarten buildings and make them more attractive to all parents.

The task of Partners Hungary Foundation’was to ensure that both the district level and institutional strategic planning and its implementation are carried out with the involvement of all stakeholders, and that kindergartens updated their methodological tools and offer new services in line with modern educational principles and the expectations of parents.

Among other contributions, Partners Hungary developed a method that was implemented in each kindergarten in the 8th district. The “Micro-project system” lays on participation with a bottom-up approach, motivation and incentives and support (trainings, peer learning exchanges) when it comes to kindergarten teachers.

In addition, the consortium introduced new educational programmes in all 11 kindergartens such as:

  • English (play-based English as Second Language sessions)
  • Magic Kindergarten
  • Minecraft program (educational use of Information and Communications Technology)
  • Superar music program
  • Gastroeducation
  • Green kindergartens (climate awareness)

Altogether a total of 48 microprojects were implemented.

After two years, the collaborative project has already produced a number of excellent outcomes: the focus on early childhood education has resulted in a child-friendly municipality, the kindergartens went through an organisational development process and teachers took part in professional development. New educational programs have been initiated, resulting in renewed profiles of the kindergartens and created more space for innovation.

The complex methodology and tools which were developed and tested within this project will be available to all municipalities and other kindergarten managers  who would like to bring about change to their kindergartens based on the same principles.


Ivett Judit Kovács (2023) Young magicians in kindergarten: Skill development through performing magic tricks, Theory Into Practice.

Kovács, I. J., Deák, É., Erőss, G. (2022). A complex intervention for inclusive kindergartens – analysis of a sozialmarie prize winner innovation in Budapest. Conference paper. ICERI2022 Proceedings. 15th annual International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation, 7-9 November, 2022, Seville, Spain.

REYN Kosovo Chose Eight Ambassadors

Roma, Egyptian and Ashkali professionals and paraprofessionals and non-Roma professionals who work in early childhood development (ECD) with children and their families in Kosovo could become the Ambassadors of Kosovo Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian Early Years Network (KRAEEYN) – the hosting organization of REYN Kosovo.

The main idea is to promote the work of professionals who have expertise and who contributed to raising and improving the quality of education in these communities with a special focus on early childhood education at the national level.

The ambassadors were nominated by the KRAEEYN network in cooperation with its Steering Council – local NGOs at the country level – that develop and implement programs in the field of early childhood education.

“Professionals and paraprofessionals in the field had to fill in their personal and professional data in questionnaires that we created. So we had a database with early childhood development professionals from the Roma, Egyptian and Ashkali communities and from the non-Roma professional’s community who work in ECD with children and their families,” says Sofije Toska, project manager of Kosova Education Center (KEC), hosting organization of KRAEEYN. “Among the respondents, eight Roma and non-Roma ECD professionals and para-professionals were selected”.

The promotion of Ambassadors was done through their profiles, which contain a photo with a short bio which were published on Facebook page of the KRAEEYN network and Facebook of KEC.

All of these ambassadors are successful leaders in their community. Their role is to promote the work of the KRAEEYN network in their communities and beyond. They are also committed to contribute to every activity, objective and needs addressed by the KRAEEYN network.