Child protection reform in Greece gets new impetus thanks to Eurochild and Martin James Foundation support

Despite Greece enacting a breakthrough law on foster care in 2018, most children in out of home care remain in institutions.

Mary Theodoropoulou, Director of Roots Research Centre, spoke at a conference with minors prosecutor and High Court judges at Halkida city Hall in February 2019.

Following its flagship campaign to reform child protection and develop family and community based care for children in alternative care under the Opening Doors for Europe’s Children campaign, Eurochild continues to drive reforms with the support of Martin James Foundation. Recognising the potential for reforms in the Greek child protection system, Eurochild will provide technical assistance to Roots Research Centre as part of a 14 month-long technical assistance programme offered through the MJF partnership to Poland, Croatia and Greece.

Situation in country

The national legislation regarding alternative care for children in Greece (Act 4538/2018 titled “Measures for the promotion of the institutions of foster care and adoption and other provisions” adopted in 2018 was a breakthrough promising development of family-based care in Greece. Family-based care is considered the best care option for children in out-home care. Roots Research Center was founded in 1999 in Athens and originally focused on the rights of adult adoptees and supported their search for their biological roots. The experience gained in this field led the organisation to expand the scope of its work towards functions that support deinstitutionalisation in Greece.

More legal entities can decide about placements in foster care for children and adolescents instead of issuing placements in residential care. Moreover, more types of family structures can now be eligible for foster parenting equally with the traditional family (e.g. single parent family, same-sex parents provided they have signed a civil partnership agreement). Additionally, a national database system has been created in order to register potential foster parents and adopters and with a view to collecting the figures of children in institutions of all legal types (public, private, NGOs, religious, municipal etc).

Yet the deficiencies pertaining to the Greek child care system remain: most of children in out-of-home care still grow up in institutions. In 2014, there were 2,850 children in Greek institutions, out of whom 900 were children with disabilities and 150 children under the age of three. Furthermore, they remain in residential care far longer (6 years) than the recommended average time (6 months). Set schedules and time plans for every child in institutional care are not in practice. Moreover, there is a lack of policy protocols, codes of ethics, organisational charters and uniform procedures and practices for all children placed in institutional care and most child settings continue to be understaffed. A further lack of focused and targeted training for all professionals involved in alternative child care puts the interests of children in out-of-home care at risk. Also, the lack of overall mapping of children in institutional care, of child victims of abuse and neglect, of foster care placements and the subsequent adoptions has created a child care system with no sustainability and limited safety for vulnerable children. 

A new drive to child protection reform

Technical assistance from Eurochild in partnership with MJF helps Roots Research Centre to be actively involved in co-drafting a deinstitutionalisation strategy that focuses on children with and without disabilities, adults with disabilities, and elderly.  Roots Research Center will carry out an assessment of needs of parents interested in, or already fostering children with trauma and provide them with the consultancy via online meetings and trainings. They will organise training sessions for minors’ prosecutors and social workers on deinstitutionalisation. Learning from others and sharing good practices such as supported lodging will inform also emerging programmes for care leavers who struggle the most after ageing-out from alternative care in Greece.

The partnership with MJF and Eurochild support will push for reforms across Europe through a three-pronged approach. Apart from technical assistance in Greece, Eurochild will support CSOs in Croatia and Poland. Additionally, it will assess broader trends to identify gaps in child protection systems across Europe and propose tested solutions, and build the capacity of member organisations working on children in alternative care through a cycle of webinars / peer learning sessions responding to their specific needs. Eurochild members will exchange good practices to respond to the needs of foster families, providers of residential care and care leavers.

About Roots Research Center Greece

Since 2004 they have been promoting foster care, deliver speeches around the country, raising public awareness on the benefits of foster care and why community based care is better for children. They have been involved in private foster care cases of children with disabilities, supporting and consulting the foster parents. They run training seminars for social workers and University students promoting foster care and community based care. They also realise seminars for potential or ongoing foster parents and for families who want to adopt. Their aim is to fulfil the right of every vulnerable child to live in a supportive and loving family.

Roots Research Center cooperates with the Ombudsman for Children's rights, other child rights NGOs such as Iliachtida, NGO Federation Greece, Network for Children’s Rights; and other informal groups such as foster parents’ groups, disability forums, unaccompanied minors’ groups.