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Lessons from Greece: Innovative solutions for children in alternative care

With support from the Martin James Foundation, Eurochild has provided technical assistance and sub-granting to our member the Roots Research Center in Greece throughout the COVID pandemic period. Our goal has been to support raising awareness in Greece of the need to regulate and reform institutional care culture and replace it with family-centred and/or community-based care for children in alternative care. You can learn more about the background to this work here.

Achievements in Greece:

With our support, the Roots Research Center has:

  • improved its relationship and recognition with Greek government ministries and local authorities that are responsible for providing alternative care to children
  • established cooperation with the juvenile justice system in Greece that is one of the key stakeholders in child protection in Greece
  • delivered comprehensive training for foster carers and professionals working with children in care
  • produced and published educational materials, including a manual on legal definitions around foster care, the first of its kind in Greece.

Practice-level developments:

Thanks to their successful training initiatives, the Roots Research Center is now invited to support official training for prospective foster parents and social work professionals, promoting the importance of family-based and community-based care over antiquated residential care models. This is the first time in Greece that NGOs are involved in official training, representing an important milestone for Greek civil society in child protection reform.

Prosecutors who attended shared that they were able to “rethink specific cases” they had worked on. They also acknowledged that “discussions of problems on behaviours and the theory on developmental trauma as well as the importance of a healthy attachment were fundamental to [their] work.”

In Greece’s child protection system, NGOs and public/private agencies with responsibility for the care of children often work in silos and do not cooperate well with central authorities. However, thanks to the advocacy and training of the Roots Research Center, that is changing for the better. Closer collaboration between these agencies and authorities is leading to better standards and recognition from these agencies of the developmental needs of children in alternative care.

Policy-level developments:

Eurochild advocacy support has also enabled the Roots Research Center to become a key player in the development of Greece’s new national strategy for deinstitutionalisation. They are working closely with the Greek Ministry for Labour and Social Affairs to make sure this strategy will shift Greece’s alternative care system towards a more family- and community-based one, in line with international standards.

Not stopping there, the Center has set their sights on pushing the Greek government for a new national strategy for all children, which should build on the EU Strategy for the Rights of the Child. They are doing this alongside the Greek Ombudsman for Children. Relationships have been established with the national Programme Office for the European Social Fund+ as well, an important interlocutor in the European Union’s funding for deinstitutionalisation efforts for the next seven years.

“Support of the Martin James Foundation helps us accompany our member, Roots Research Center, as they work with the authorities to move Greece away from institutional towards family- and community-based care for children. This intervention comes at a crucial time as EU policy and funding can contribute to deinstitutionalisation efforts.” Jana Hainsworth, Secretary General, Eurochild.