J.K.Rowling Official Site

Skip Navigation

Navigation: Diary | News | Rumours | Rubbish Bin | F.A.Q. | Fan Sites | Biography | Extra Stuff | Wizard of the Month Archive | Happy Birthday | Links

Section: News

Wednesday 25 January 2006

Launch of the Children's High Level Group

On the 25th and 26th of this month I will be in Bucharest, the capital of Romania, to help launch the Children's High Level Group. This will be a brief 'fact-finding' trip during which I will also help raise funds for the Group at a charity dinner.

In 2003 I read an article in the British Sunday Times about the use of 'cage beds' in psychiatric institutions in the Czech Republic. The article alleged that children as young as two were being kept in these beds, without physical contact or comfort, for the majority of the day and night. The photograph that accompanied the article – of a very young boy staring through wire mesh at the camera - is still branded on my memory; in fact, it was so disturbing that when my eyes first fell on it my immediate instinct was to turn the page quickly so as not to have to look at it.

However, immediately ashamed of my cowardly impulse, I smoothed the newspaper out again and read the article from beginning to end, swearing that if the text matched the picture in horror, I would try and 'do something' about the issue.

Needless to say, the story detailing the plight of disabled and mentally handicapped children locked in cages in 'care homes' made dreadful reading. So I started writing letters, firstly to all the Scottish MEPs (Members of the European Parliament) and then to the Czech Ambassador, Czech Prime Minister and Czech President.

This flurry of epistolary activity led me to a meeting with Baroness Emma Nicholson, who has been working on similar issues in Romania for many years, resulting in substantial improvements in child welfare and protection in that country. She asked me to join the Children's High Level Group, which will work on a much wider scale to enforce children's rights as defined by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and other international standards in force.

The social problems that lead to the placing of children in institutions are complex and will not be resolved quickly; however, that is a good reason for making a start as soon as possible. There is now widespread agreement among child health experts that irreparable, long-term damage is caused to young children who are institutionalised without a parent. The Children's High Level Group will share the knowledge and experience accumulated in recent years in the field of the protection of child rights and will work with other international bodies to bring about meaningful change for as many institutionalised children as possible.

PS: But none of this means that I have given up writing book seven… just in case you were wondering!

All rights reserved JK Rowling.
Site by Lightmaker