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Lessons from Poland: Creating lasting change for children in alternative care

With support from the Martin James Foundation, Eurochild has provided technical assistance and sub-granting to our member the Polish Foster Care Coalition throughout the COVID pandemic period. Our goal has been to support the Coalition to engage in the governmental process of deinstitutionalisation, to raise awareness by leading an online discussion and informative webinars, to share good practices of foster care in country and to engage in national and EU advocacy.  You can learn more about the background to this work here.

Achievements in Poland

Polish Foster Care Coalition with our support has:

  • developed working contacts with national decision-makers and established itself as expert in the field
  • been involved in drafting of the national deinstitutionalisation strategy in Poland as a member of the working group established by the Ministry of family and Social Policy
  • suggested amendments during the consultation of the Act on Family Support and System of Alternative Care that are subject of negotiation with the Ministry
  • reached out to hundreds of stakeholders including municipalities and juvenile judges by organising webinars on foster care and other related topics on local and national levels
  • held online discussions to tackle disinformation about different aspects of deinstitutionalisation in practice.

Advocating on EU social policy

In advocating for deinstitutionalisation reforms, the Coalition has drawn upon good practices from other countries, in particular the different legal frameworks that exist to support foster care. In February, it was invited to present a proposal on deinstitutionalisation for children at the national conference organised by the President of Poland.

Polish Foster Care Coalition has also actively supported Eurochild’s advocacy on the Child Guarantee and the proposal to earmark 5% of funds from ESF plus to tackle child poverty. Thanks to their effort they have strengthened relations with the Ministry of Development Funds and Regional Policy and Polish members of European Parliament.

Outreach to hundreds of key stakeholders

Polish Foster Care Coalition organised several events with the aim of raising awareness, clarifying the issues at stake and sharing inspirational practices. The 7 webinars focused on a wide variety of topics such as how municipalities can facilitate development of foster care for children with disabilities and how to ensure best placement for children with trauma. They attracted hundreds of child protection professionals, foster carers, prospective adoptive/foster parents, public authorities’ representatives, municipalities’ representatives from most of Polish districts, and juvenile lawyers. Finally the Coalition organised a national conference in February 2021, with over 170 participants and with a message to end institutionalisation for children in Poland.

Talking stereotypes and misinformation around deinstitutionalisation

Polish Foster Care Coalition has been steering lively discussion on social media about topics such as the realisation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities in the deinstitutionalisation strategy and action plan. These discussions helped to raise awareness on the needs and interest of children with disabilities among important stakeholders.   

“Each foster parent who raises a child with disabilities, understands that these children especially require family care. Poland, as well as other countries, must actively pursue the path of deinstitutionalising the care of children with disabilities.” – A foster mother and local activist

 “Over the few months of our collaboration, Polish Foster Care Coalition has influenced national and European policies and offered concrete expertise at local level to ensure that children in Poland have the best care possible. Deinstitutionalisation is a long and complex process that needs experts like the Polish Foster Care Coalition. With this targeted support they have developed expertise and inspired change by bringing attention to international practices worth following.” - Jana Hainsworth, Secretary General, Eurochild.

Building on the work done within this project, the Coalition will continue to address the needs of foster carers in Poland by organizing experts’ webinars. It has also been approached by the District Centre for Family Support to cooperate on developing a local strategy for deinstitutionalisation.