About: Monika Hunjadi

Organisation: European Centre for Social Welfare Policy and Research

Assistant International and Public Relations

Contributions

Foster care in Albania

Referring to the latest annual report of State Social Services, during 2020 15 children from the public residential institutions of children in Albania have been reunited with their biological families, while 27 children have been adopted. The national program for the establishment of the new foster care service is institutionalized since 2008 in the Strategy of social protection and the action plan for its implementation.

By Merita Xhumari and Megi Xhumari, University of Tirana

There are approximately 700,000 children in Albania, representing a dependency ratio of 25.0 children per 100 working age population. Close to 0.12 per cent (1.2 per 1,000) of the child population lives in residential institutional care, as reported by the State Inspectorate for Social Services in June 2016. Referring to the latest annual report of State Social Services, during 2020 15 children from the public residential institutions of children in Albania have been reunited with their biological families, while 27 children have been adopted. The national program for the establishment of the new foster care service is institutionalized since 2008 in the Strategy of social protection and the action plan for its implementation. Law 18/2017, “On the children’s rights and protection” defines the institutional mechanisms for the protection of children’s rights at central and local level. These developments reflect the commitments of the Albanian government towards the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals 2030, Objective 1.4 Article 20: “Children deprived of their family environment are entitled to special protection and assistance from the State which provides… an alternative care” in the National Agenda for Children Rights 2017-2020. Albania’s EU integration process also requires the development of policies and services according to Principle 11 “Care and support for children” of the European Pillar of Social Rights.

In order to support alternative care for children, SOS Children’s Villages Albania in partnership with Tirana Legal Aid Society (TLAS) have been implementing the project “The Development of CSOs for foster care in Albania”, financed by European Union. The objective of the project was to: “Support good practices and models of protection of children from abuse and violence, alternative care, family strengthening, inclusive education and early childhood development with a special focus on vulnerable & minority groups”. The project started in April 2018 and ended in March 2021, implemented in 3 main regions of Albania, Tirana, Durrësi and Korça.

Despite the fact that in the last years, de-institutionalization and the development of family-based services and foster care have become a priority for governmental agendas, the accessibility to a range of care options, including foster care, has not really been prioritized and residential cares prevails and continues to account for the highest number of children in alternative care. The main challenges faced that were identified in the course of the project implementation on foster care have been the lack of information and public awareness about this new family-based service. In Albania, the placement of children in kinship families has traditionally been applied without any court process. On the one hand, it has been the mentality of biological parents to leave their children in residential care rather than in foster care families, as they fear they might lose their child forever. On the other hand, there is the mentality of Albanian families, who want to have a child permanently as part of the family, to better decide for adoption rather than have a foster family that provides a temporary care for children without parental care. Furthermore, there are also macro level challenges related to the capacities of local government, courts and other local actors that need to be developed to be able to manage the new foster care service.

The key recommendations drawn from the project implementation include the actions to increase public awareness on foster care, the creation of a juvenile court, free legal service for foster families; the establishment of better synergies across institutions; and for foster family to be recognized as a profession and to have an adequate payment.

In support of these recommendations, one of the main outputs of the project was the development of a Practical Training Manual for Foster Care in Albania by Bethany Social Services, the first local NGO piloting foster care service in Albania, to guide local professionals and key stakeholders in foster care service implementation. The Manual published in the Albanian language can assist professionals from Kosovo, North Macedonia, as well as Montenegro where a considerable Albanian population is living.

The central axis for addressing the main topics of the Manual is the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child ratified by the Albanian government, which stipulates that “… the child, for the full and harmonious development of his / her personality, must grow up in a family environment, in a happy atmosphere, with love and understanding”, as well as the UN Guidelines for Alternative Care for Children.

Content-wise, the Training Manual aims to provide knowledge, develop skills and competencies related to:

  • The value and importance of the family for children;
  • Laws, regulations and policies governing the foster care service;
  • The process of implementing the foster care service;
  • Categories of competencies for the foster care service;
  • Commitment to the role as a member of a professional Cross-cutting Technical Group.

Report: The UN Common Country Analysis for the Republic of Moldova 2020

Report: The UN Common Country Analysis for the Republic of Moldova 2020 by the UN Moldova Country Team

The United Nations Common Country Analysis for The Republic of Moldova (UN CCA) analyses the country’s socio-economic development and political context, along with critical challenges and root causes, and has been conducted jointly by United Nations organizations working in the Republic of Moldova. Read more

Online article: Every child matters? Ambivalences and convergences in migration management and child protection in Albania

Online article: Every child matters? Ambivalences and convergences in migration management and child protection in Albania by Vathi et al.

Based on fieldwork with policymakers and service providers in Albania, a middle-to-high income country with a significant history of emigration, this paper aims to shed light on the interaction of these institutional and policy domains and the impact they have on professional practice. The State’s impact on migrant children’s rights at the domestic level is affected by the resourcefulness of its system of social and child protection. Read more

Online article: Factor structure and internal consistency of the ISPCAN Child Abuse Screening Tool Parent Version (ICAST-P) in a cross-country pooled data set in nine Balkan countries

Online article: Factor structure and internal consistency of the ISPCAN Child Abuse Screening Tool Parent Version (ICAST-P) in a cross-country pooled data set in nine Balkan countries by Meinck et al.

Researchers are increasingly using parental report measures in population-based surveys of violence against children. No research thus far has examined the factor structure of the International Society for the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect (ISPCAN) Child Abuse Screening Tool Parent Version (ICAST-P), a non-commercialized measure for prevalence studies. Read more

31/03/21: Ukraine Calling: CfA

The programme offers seminars and workshops to provide orientational and applied knowledge on the topic of local development, as well as to assist its participants in developing cross-sectoral competences and to foster international networking.

31/03/21: Ukraine Calling: CfA – Project-oriented capacity building for civil society organisations

Project-oriented capacity building for civil society organisations and initiatives from Ukraine, Belarus, France, Poland, and Germany on local development.

Who can participate?

The programme offers seminars and workshops to provide orientational and applied knowledge on the topic of local development, as well as to assist its participants in developing cross-sectoral competences and to foster international networking. Actors from various fields (i.a. education, human rights, culture, media, academia) are invited to apply, introducing a project idea for cross-sectoral transnational cooperation, that they want to develop for subsequent implementation after the programme. A special focus of Ukraine Calling concerns the questions about the way societal chal-lenges can be tackled better by projects involving actors from different sectors (i.e. civil society, culture, city administrations). Read more

14/04/21: CfP – Strengthening civil society capacities & resilience in Armenia

The EU Delegation to Armenia has announced a new Call for Proposals “Delivering for the future: Strengthening civil society capacities and resilience in Armenia”.

14/04/21: The EU Delegation to Armenia: CfP – Strengthening civil society capacities & resilience in Armenia

The EU Delegation to Armenia has announced a new Call for Proposals “Delivering for the future: Strengthening civil society capacities and resilience in Armenia”, which is making an additional EUR 2.76 million available for civil society organisations. Read more

The deadline for submission of Concept Notes is 14 April 2021.

31/05/21: APPEAR – Call for partnerships & scholarships

APPEAR contributes to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The overall objective is to strengthen the scientific foundation and institutional capacities in higher education, research andmanagement in the partner countries through academic partnerships with Austrian higher education institutions and master’s and PhD scholarships.

31/05/21: Austrian Development Cooperation (ADC) APPEAR: Call for partnerships & scholarships in higher education

APPEAR contributes to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The overall objective is to strengthen the scientific foundation and institutional capacities in higher education, research andmanagement in the partner countries through academic partnerships with Austrian higher education institutions and master’s and PhD scholarships. Furthermore, APPEAR aims at increasing the commitment to international cooperation and development at Austrian higher education institutions.

APPEAR is a programme of the Austrian Development Cooperation (ADC) with the aim to realise its strategy for support of higher education and research for development on an academic institutional level.  Read more

Guidelines for Applicants

Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the deinstitutionalization of child care reform in Ukraine

“The first wave” of the childcare deinstitutionalization reform in Ukraine started in 2008. As a result, since 2017, more than 90% of orphans and children deprived of parental care are raised in families or in family-type forms of care (under guardianship/custody, by relatives, in foster families, family-type child homes) according to the data of the Ministry of Social Policy of Ukraine.

By Iryna Demchenko & Nataliia Bulyha, NGO Analytical Center “Socioconsulting”

“The first wave” of the childcare deinstitutionalization reform in Ukraine started in 2008. As a result, since 2017, more than 90% of orphans and children deprived of parental care are raised in families or in family-type forms of care (under guardianship/custody, in particular by relatives, in foster families, family-type child homes) according to the data of the Ministry of Social Policy of Ukraine.

But despite this, institutional care facilities still operate and host children. For example, according to the results of a comprehensive study of the child protection system in Ukraine “Illusion of protection” conducted by “Hope and Homes for Children”, there were 751 institutional care facilities in Ukraine by September 2016. And more than 100 thousand children received services in such institutions, but only 8% of them were orphans or of parents deprived of the parental rights; the remaining 92 % had parents.

This dual system has several negative consequences: firstly, the irrational use of funds, as the system still supports the institutional care which proved inefficient. And, on the other hand, the families of institutionalised children might still receive state benefits, allowances, and other support, since these are not to subjected to the physical presence of the child in the family.

Secondly, the current system also allows parents to place a child in an institution for a long period only by submitting an application. This possibility does not motivate the parents to overcome life challenges and to improve family well-being. Accordingly, a child who has spent many years in an institution returns to an unfavourable family environment, which significantly reduces his/her chances of successful integration and achieving professional and life goals. Besides, such a child is not entitled to receive benefits provided to orphans and children, whose parents are officially deprived of parental rights (i.e., priority placement in a dormitory and free use of the accommodation).

All of these reasons prompted the acceleration of the deinstitutionalization reform. In 2017, the “second wave” took place. There were some positive developments in 2019 compared to 2017, according to the input on the ‘Monitoring of Institutional care facilities’ provided by the Presidential Commissioner for Children’s Rights on January 1, 2020, namely an 8% decrease in the number of institutions, an 8% decrease in the number of children who received services in institutions, and a 13% decrease in the number of children, who stayed in institutions 24/7.

According to the data of the Ministry of Social Policy of Ukraine, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, more than 40 thousand children from institutions were returned to their families in March 2020. However, about 6 thousand children (no more than 10%) remained at the institutions because they had nowhere else to go. Experts unanimously characterized this situation as a sign of the futility of the existing system and the de facto beginning of the overdue deinstitutionalization reform.

In June 2020, the Ministry of Social Policy of Ukraine approved the “Procedure for enrolment of children for 24-hour stay in child institutional care and upbringing facilities” (which could be considered the “third wave” of the deinstitutionalization reform). This document included two key innovations:

  • enrolment of a child in the institution is possible only when all other care options have been exhausted (in other words, parents must provide papers to prove that the placement of a child in an institution is necessary);
  • the suspension of payment of state aid to the family if the child is placed in educational institutions 24/7.

However, the implementation of this document has encountered fierce resistance, which is caused by several factors, namely:

1) The inclination of the local authorities to preserve the status. For the united territorial communities (UTCs) placing a child in a regional level institution allows not to take responsibility for this child, besides, a large facility on the territory of the community means jobs and revenues to the local budget. In this way the regional administrations receive significant funds from the state budget to maintain huge land lots (up to 125 ha) and premises (up to 95 thousand square meters).

2) A significant number of community level administration is not properly aware of the depth of the issue, do not see the need to make significant efforts, and invest in the development of basic community social services. The sector experts state that only a third of the need for social workers at UTC is met. This leads to a low level of coverage of vulnerable families with preventive social services which will reduce the number of neglected.

3) The parents still support the institutionalisation due to the fact that it is economically advantageous for parents to place their children in boarding schools. In particular, the legislation provides ample possibility for the parent to be exempted of all costs related to childcare and education in the boarding schools.

4) The institutionalisation is further aggravated by the inadequate development of health, educational, rehabilitation, and social services for families with children in the community, which objectively complicates/makes it impossible to raise a child in a family.

On the education side, there is a lack of general education services in the rural areas including issues with transporting children from one community to another, and lack of basic community services such as after-school activities and supervision, food provision. The insufficient development of inclusive education pushes parents to place their children in specific institutions to provide them education per the peculiarities of their development.

As a result of the resistance to childcare deinstitutionalization reform, a decree of the Cabinet of Minister’s “On Amendments to the National Strategy for Reforming the System of Institutional Care and Upbringing of Children for 2017-2026” was recently drafted and is now at the stage of approval. The document in fact closes out the reform of deinstitutionalization in Ukraine, namely excludes an essential part of institutions from the reform and delays to 2026 the termination of children under 3 years placement in institutions. Currently, international and Ukrainian NGOs working in the field of children rights protection are fighting to prevent this decree from being approved.

15/10/21: The EU Delegation to Armenia: CfP

The purpose of this Call for Proposals is to contribute to reforms processes underpinned by EU integration by supporting civil society actors in the ‘Western Balkans 6’ countries – Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia, and Serbia.

15/10/21: The EU Delegation to Armenia: CfP – Strengthening civil society capacities & resilience in Armenia

The Balkan Trust for Democracy’s financial and technical assistance for this sub-granting process is part of the larger Norwegian efforts to support Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia, and Serbia.

THE PURPOSE OF THE CALL

The purpose of this Call for Proposals is to contribute to reforms processes underpinned by EU integration by supporting civil society actors in the ‘Western Balkans 6’ countries – Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia, and Serbia.

This sub-granting scheme of the Balkan Trust for Democracy (BTD) is being realized with the support of the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Royal Norwegian Embassy in Belgrade.

Support is given to two priority areas:

I. Media Freedom
II. Fight against Domestic and Gender-based Violence 

This is an open call, and project proposals will be assessed continuously from 5 August 2020 up until 15 October 2021. Read more

EESPN survey: Look out for EESPN and Bridge Building Survey!

The European Centre team will ask you to provide feedback on the EESPN and Bridge Building activities.

EESPN survey: Look out for EESPN and Bridge Building Survey!

In the next few days, the European Centre team will ask you to provide feedback on the EESPN and Bridge Building activities. Your responses are valuable and will help improve future activities. The survey will take maximally 10 minutes. Please look out for the survey in your mailbox. Thank you!