Within the global context of deinstitutionalisation reform, this event took 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 was organised by, among others, Eurochild member, the Know How Center for Alternative Care for Children. The conference aimed 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 shared 5 lessons from her experience of coordinating the Opening Doors for Europe’s Children campaign – a 6-year campaign that supported national efforts across 16 European countries 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.
Highlights from the 5 lessons from DI reforms across Europe include:
- We need common definitions, better data and 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?’
- EU political pressure and funds need to be better harnessed: the EU should be an enabler for positive outcomes.
- Voice: Strengthen the agency of those directly affected: it is important to engage with people affected via care leavers associations, parents whose children are at risk, etc.
- Connect to mainstream services: empower professionals and practitioners to get the right training.
- Focus on what works: Amplify it. Reward it. Criticise. Be accountable.
Hainsworth recommends the EU ‘make children visible in the EU budget and priorities’. She reminds us that the EU should not dictate what needs to happen, but it should rather create an enabling environment and 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 and engagement of domestic budgets. Services end when the money ends. To national governments, Hainsworth recommends engaging in public awareness to show how poverty, segregation and discrimination is bad for society as a whole.