Eurochild and Martin James Foundation partnership to tackle slow deinstitutionalisation reforms in Croatia
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 Croatian child protection system, Eurochild will provide technical assistance to FICE Croatia as part of a 14 month-long technical assistance programme offered through the MJF partnership to Poland, Croatia and Greece.
Situation in country
The reforms process started in Croatia in 2011 when the State endorsed the deinstitutionalisation plan for transformation of social welfare homes and other legal bodies providing social services in Croatia 2011-2016. Overall transition from institutional to family-based and community-based forms of care shows slow signs of progress. Of the 6,256 children, 5,437 are children with disabilities who were still growing up in institutional care in 2018 in Croatia. This is mainly due to a lack of commitment from the State, a lack of know-how in the area of community- based social services by the state providers, prejudices against foster care and inefficient use of EU funding to support reform.
The long expected law on foster care came into force in January 2019 with ambition to promote development of family based-care including increasing a number of family-based care placements. In 2018 there were 2,276 children living in foster families compared to 2017 when 2,263 children were placed in foster care. Unfortunately, neither the legislation nor the UNICEF campaign promoting foster parenting (which ran in August 2018) have increased number of foster parents. It requires more coordinated and efficient approach at national level with leverage of international players such the EU and others.
Tackling slow deinstitutionalisation
Eurochild technical assistance in partnership with Martin James Foundation is meant to leverage the influence of the EU as well as to connect and learn from others to push for deinstitutionalisation reform in Croatia. FICE Croatia will conduct an assessment of needs of the institutions and individuals involved. They will also conduct peer-reviews and meet foster families to understand challenges and opportunities of being and becoming a foster parent, which will be further utilised in recruitment strategies. Nation-wide training for social workers and relevant ministries representatives will take place online in September.
The partnership with MJF and Eurochild support will push for reforms across Europe through a three-pronged approach. Apart from technical assistance in Croatia, Eurochild will support CSOs in Greece 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 FICE Croatia
FICE Croatia aims to improve the quality of life for children, youth, families but also professionals and communities. Special focus of its work is on children and youth at risk, as well as children and youth in alternative care. Through activities of support, experience and knowledge exchange, networking and advocating, FICE Croatia tries to strengthen and improve social services.
To increase impact FICE Croatia works in coalition with other civil society organisations: Forum for quality foster care (Forum za kvalitetno udomiteljstvo djece) and Igra and cooperates with the Social Work Department of Zagreb University.