De-Institutionalising and Transforming Children's Services A Guide to Good Practice

Publishers Daphne Project
Document authors Mulheir Georgette, Brown Kevin
Zones Europe
Type Guide / Guidelines / Principle
Date of publication 2010
Document main thematic Child Protection/ Related Topic
Total pages 149

Research and practice over sixty years demonstrates the harmful effects of institutionalisation upon children. The purpose of this document is to assist policy makers, practitioners and other concerned individuals to transform systems of institutional care into those based on family and community support.

Most countries have used institutional care for children at some time. Institutions are often established with good intentions, in the belief that this is the best way to look after children. However, evidence demonstrates that family and community based forms of care are more likely to meet the needs of children. Experience in de-institutionalisation in a number of countries suggests that this process is beneficial to children, families, communities and governments.

Those who have been involved in the process of closing a residential care institution and providing alternative forms of care will have met many challenges, obstacles and dilemmas along the way. The guidance in this manual is based on current best practices in de-institutionalising children from residential care, identified from the experience of childcare professionals across the European region. The manual attempts to alert the reader to some of the challenges and obstacles and offers advice and practical methods for addressing them. It considers the process of de-institutionalisation in its entire complexity.

The introduction defines residential care and what is meant by the term ‘institution’ in this context.

  • Chapter one (Step 1) draws upon research evidence and practical experience to raise awareness on the negative effects of institutionalisation on children, simultaneously highlighting why de-institutionalising children from residential care is important in terms of a harmful environment and financially inefficient in providing care services.
  • Chapter two (Step 2) describes how to develop a strategic plan for managing the process of de-institutionalisation.
  • Chapter three (Step 3) presents the next step which analyses children’s services with an overall appraisal of the institutional care system, emphasising the importance of an analysis at country/regional level.
  • Chapter four (Step 4) presents an analysis at institution level. The aim is to identify an institution to target for transformation.
  • Chapter five (Step 5) details the design of alternative services which projects and identifies what services would be required to effectively deinstitutionalise children in residential care. These range from prevention and community support services to substitute family care, to specialist residential care.
  • Chapter six (Step 6) considers planning the transfer of resources necessary for effective and efficient de-institutionalisation. It suggests ways in which projections can be made of the costs of future services and warns against closing institutions primarily to reduce cost. It emphasises the need for money to follow the child.
  • Chapter seven (Step 7) deals with one of the most important and complex aspects of de-institutionalisation: the process of preparing and moving children to their new placement.
  • Chapter eight (Step 8) considers preparing and moving staff and addresses possible resistance to the closure of an institution from the institution personnel and provides those involved in managing de-institutionalisation with methods for reducing staff resistance.
  • Chapter nine (Step 9) addresses the logistics involved in carrying out the de-institutionalisation of children into new placements and transforming the services offered after all planning and preparations have been made.
  • Chapter ten (Step 10) outlines the responsibilities of state and local authorities to carry out monitoring and evaluation.

In the conclusions and recommendations, a broader perspective is taken to offer recommendations for community services aimed at children and their families to prevent family breakdown and to support families in need or those who care for children with special needs, such as professional foster carers.

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