Help families and stop unconditioned sending of children into institutional care
Timely professional help for families, development of parental capacity and strengthening of coordination between state actors – are main pre-conditions for the right of every child to grow in a family.
The afore mentioned conclusion was made at International Scientific Conference “Rescue of a Child of Supporting the Family: Search for Better Decisions” organized by the International Charity Organization “Partnership for Every Child” and Kyiv State Oblast Administration on the 13-14th of December 2011.
More than 180 specialists from various regions of Ukraine, Russia, Uzbekistan , Lithuania and Great Britain took part in the conference: public authorities, academia, specialists of centres of social services for families, children and youth, representatives of NGOs and charity organizations, donors of social projects.
Participants of the Conference admitted positive sides of the discussion about children rights going on at state level, supported by All-Ukrainian Meeting on the Rights of a Child and orders by Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine.
At the same time they expressed their worries about existing gap between the law and existing practice and impressive negative tendencies of uncontrolled placement of children from poor families in institutions taking place for two years.
«Each year around 10 000 of parents in Ukraine are deprived of parental rights, showing stable punitory approach towards families in crisis, - said Yuriy Pavlenko, Authorized representative of the President of Ukraine for Children's Rights.
In his opinion simplified procedure for child placement into institutional care (when parents appeal is enough for placement) leads to the fact that temporary placed children without status of an orphan today count almost a half of children placed into institutional care. However some years ago the proportion of orphans towards temporary placed children was 15% against 85%.
«Poverty is one of the most common reason for the deprivation of parental rights, - assumed Y. Pavlenko, but local public authorities instead of adequate response towards this challenge chose self delusion – preserve institutional care by any means».
Speaking about the scale of the problem in numbers: today only 20% of families in hard living circumstances and 2-3% of families in care are under supervision of centres of social services for families, children and youth. Social workers find parents who are deprived of parental rights too late, sometimes already in court.
Early exposure of families in crisis is one of the main tasks to reduce institutionalisation – Ukrainian and foreign specialists agree. Timely assistance to these families prevents negative consequences. Specialists priorities family as the best environment for the child’s development and try to act in the best interests of the child. At the same time today state interacts with 35 000 of children in hard living circumstances, although there are 200 000 children in need according to different alternative sources.
General features of reformation of child care and protection system in Ukraine are typical for Central Eastern European countries, - Vasylyna Dybaylo, director of Partnership for Every Child said in her presentation. During 1990-s countries passed through the reformation and enthusiasm, in the 2000s – stagnation took place with fragmentary political actions, rise of institutional care, including placement of children under three years old into institutions, weak interagency cooperation and underdeveloped alternatives to institutional care.
«Childhood is irreversible and unique, but one can help a family in hard living circumstances, - V. Dybaylo assumed. Therefore it’s time to stop and think what the best interest of a child is. Implementing gatekeeping in place helps to answer this question».
Experts and organizers of the conference agreed that implementation of family based services and deinstitutionalization based on gatekeeping (piloted by Partnership for Every Child in Kyiv Oblast during 2009-2011) help to change attitudes from reactionary towards preventive.
During project implementation the process of child separation and placement into state institutional care was analyzed and mechanisms were proposed to affect these procedures. Therefore priorities were changed from liquidation of consequences towards prevention of orphanhood at all levels: legislative, development and implementation of services, monitoring of children’s rights.
New approaches towards children’s rights resulted in “Towards Children” - Complex Programme to tackle child neglect, support families with children and reformation of institutional care for children for 2008-2017 in Kyiv Oblast, legislation that prevents children from being placed into institutional care unless they receive appropriate services in the community. Besides to reduce the risk of child separation effective family based care models were introduced: first short term fostering family in Ukraine, socialization services for care leavers, community village social workers.
Improved decision making mechanism through gatekeeping priorities and acts to secure children’s t grow in safe and caring family. At the same time structural changes in public authorities’ approaches and views of professionals working in the best interests of the child had to take place, new quality standards in service delivery had to be developed.
From 2009 300 leaders and professionals of social sphere of Kyiv Oblast took part in different trainings in terms of the project, 160 specialists completed “Child Protection: Family Based Approach” course implemented by Partnership of Every Child together with Institute of Human services (USA), Kyiv Oblast Services for Children and Centre of Advanced Training for public authorities, state enterprises, institutions and organizations of Kyiv Oblast. Also manuals “Child Needs Assessment: from theory to practice” (2 volumes) were prepared and manual “Family Based Social Work. Practical Aspects” was published.
During two days of the conference participants shared their experiences on new services development for families with children, decision-making mechanisms in the best interests of the child, introduction of innovative social technologies and complex system of strategic planning and monitoring of children’s rights.
At section meetings the following problematic themes were discussed: best practices in social work, improving training of social workforce, development of family based services system at community level; approaches towards children’s rights monitoring according to international standards, particularly complex system of monitoring for public local authorities’ performance in children rights protection, existing decision making mechanisms towards vulnerable children were analysed.
Participants of the conference took part in thematic master classes that showed project’s best achievements: child and family needs assessment, mobilization of family and community resources to solve problems of children and families through social networking (family conferences), training course programme “Child Protection: Family Based Approach”.
Conference was organized in terms of the project “Preventing Separation of Children through Implementation of Gatekeeping Mechanism”, implemented by Partnership for Every Child together with Kyiv Oblast State Administration and Institute of Human Services (USA) with financial assistance of Gerald and Genrietta Rauenhorst Foundation and EveryChild (United Kingdom).