The Guest Blog

Children need the type of nurturing and love that a family gives to develop to their full potential. This loving, nurturing environment is a proven biological necessity, essential for brain development. Without it, children suffer serious delays in their development.

Guest post by : Dr Delia Pop, Director of Programmes at Hope and Homes for Children and Jana Hainsworth, Secretary General of Eurochild

And yet, across Europe, there are hundreds of thousands of children confined to institutional care – a type of care characterised by large numbers of children overseen by staff according to strict, depersonalised routines.

Decades of evidence on institutional care is conclusive. It doesn’t ‘care’ at all. It is damaging to children without exception and totally inconsistent with respect of their rights.

Children who grow up in institutional care have lower educational achievement and suffer severe delays in their physical, cognitive and emotional development. Many of them fall victim to trafficking, exploitation, unemployment, homelessness and depression on leaving the care system.

You may be surprised to learn that most of these children are not orphans but have been separated from their families as a result of poverty and discrimination.

This is an injustice which demands action.

Deinstitutionalisation

On 6 June, Hope and Homes for Children and Eurochild have launched the Opening Doors for Europe’s Children to support European countries to dismantle their institutional care systems and build family-based care and support services – a process known as deinstitutionalisation.

Institutional care must be eradicated. Not only is it damaging to children, it is a poor investment in the long term. Supporting families and ensuring high-quality alternatives for children who cannot be cared for by their biological parents produces better outcomes and is more cost effective in the long-term.

The European Commission has recently recognised this and in the Recommendation ‘Investing in children, breaking the cycle of disadvantage – of February 2013 – it explicitly calls on member states to “stop the expansion of institutional care settings for children without parental care; and promote quality, community-based care and foster care within family settings instead, where children’s voice is given due consideration”.

As we know, an EC Recommendation is not binding for Members states. Furthermore, this problem persists also in EU neighbourhood countries such as Ukraine and Moldova. “Opening Doors for Europe’s children” aims at supporting NGOs at the national level to mobilise their governments and make deinstitutionalisation happen.

Through our partners at national level, we are developing coalitions of like-minded organisations, working towards a shared goal – to achieve significant progress in policy, legislation and funding.

The quality of children’s childhood will largely determine Europe’s future. We believe that the end of institutional care for children in Europe is possible and within our reach.

The “Opening Doors for Europe’s children” campaign will catalyse civil society action around this issue and ensure governments fulfil their responsibility to provide quality, family-based care for all children.

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