More action at an EU level is desperately needed to prevent the worrying number of children who end up in care, child protection groups say.
Though no reliable data exists, UNICEF estimates some 1.3 million orphaned or abandoned children in central and eastern Europe still live in institutions.
For the most part, childcare remains the domain of national governments. Activists and MEPs say more EU funds and guidance from Brussels would go a long way to ending the inhumane conditions.
Irish MEP Mairead McGuinness said: “Together, the member states, the European Parliament and the Commission can make a difference to people who are currently locked up behind the walls you see at this exhibition. We do have a lot of work to do. It is ambitious, but it is not an option. We have to do it.”
Campaigners insist member states, like Romania and Bulgaria, which still keep Dickensian-style institutions open, must be encouraged to use community based alternatives, such as adoption or fostering.