Five lessons from deinstitutionalisation reforms across Europe

An international conference titled “Deinstitutionalisation of Childcare: Investing in Change” has been organised in Sofia, Bulgaria on 6-8 November to gather experts with world-class research on and practical experience of deinstitutionalisation reforms.

Within the global context of this reform, the event takes an EU perspective, focusing on the reform’s specific national characteristics and on bridging the gap between the accumulated knowledge and decision-making in DI.

The conference is organised by among others, Eurochild member, the Know How Center for Alternative Care for Children. The conference aims to document the lessons learnt concerning the DI processes under the overarching question “How should we invest in the change DI has generated?”

Eurochild Secretary General Jana Hainsworth will share 5 lessons from experience of coordinating the Opening Doors for Europe’s Children campaign – a 6-years campaign that supported national efforts across 16 countries in Europe to develop child protection systems that strengthen families and ensure high quality family- and community based alternative care for children. The campaign leverages EU funding and policy and builds capacity of civil society.

Here are some highlights of the lessons learnt: 5 lessons from DI reforms across Europe.

1.    We need common definitions, better data & more balanced monitoring of progress.
Before asking what kind of care children are in, ask, “Are we doing everything in our power to ensure that children are not separated from their families?”

2.    EU political pressure & funds needs to be better harnessed – The EU should be an enabler for positive outcomes.   

3.    Voice: Strengthen the agency of those directly affected – important to engage with people affected via care leavers associations, parents whose children are at risk, etc.

4.    Connect to mainstream services: empower the professionals and practitioners to get the right training.

5.    Focus on what works – Focus on what’s working. Amplify it.  Reward it. Criticise.  Be accountable.

Recommendations:
Jana recommends the EU to “make children visible in the EU budget & priorities.” She reminds that the EU should not dictate what needs to happen; but it should rather create an enabling environment & set a vision, which includes reducing poverty, deprivation and creating a more inclusive society.

National action plans are critical to avoid ad-hoc projects and instead, push for strategic investments that will trigger domestic policy reform & engagement of domestic budgets.  Services end when the money ends.
To national governments, Ms. Hainsworth recommends engaging in public awareness to show how poverty, segregation, discrimination is bad for society as a whole.

Learn more about Opening Doors for Europe’s Children campaign