On the 22nd of June the Lithuanian foundation Žiburio Fondas organized an international conference named „Deinstitutionalization – a way to safe and healthy childhood in Lithuania”. The main purpose of the conference was to gather international knowledge and share best practices, guidelines and examples that can contribute to the successful implementation of deinstitutionalization process in Lithuania, where there are still 3000 children living in institutions. The event also aimed at inspiring new attitudes towards deinstitutionalization based on better understanding what sustainable transition from institutional care to family and community based services, support and care means.
Dilyana Slavkova from the Secretariat of the National Network for Children – Bulgaria presented the Bulgarian experience in the deinstitutionalization reform since the adoption of the “Vision for deinstitutionalization of children”. She named some key achievements along the process – the decrease in the number of children living in institutions and in the number of institutions, the increase in the number of community-based services including foster care, the integrated investment of EU funds, etc. Mrs Slavkova also pointed at the weak sides of the process, which have outlined the need for ensuring quality care in the new Family Type Placement Centres and the sustainability of the new services, tackling the deficiencies in the management of foster care and enhancing the capacity of the child protection system.
Lithuanian officials from the Ministry of Social Security and Labour and the Ministry of Education participated in the event. They stressed on the need for the creation of new innovative services for children, including for children in conflict with the law. Lithuania has gone a long way to create mechanisms for the enjoyment of human rights by all children without any discrimination. Still, despite the comprehensive framework of institutions, standards, adopted international instruments and commitments, the daily reality of children in Lithuania is in sharp contrast to these commitments. Children belonging to vulnerable groups, such as children left without parental care are often placed in institutions, face particular risks and are exposed to discrimination, marginalization and all forms of abuse and exploitation. Child care system in Lithuania still reflects the ideology of social exclusion, and alternative care settings such as foster families are at the development stage and are surrounded by lot of prejudice, misconceptions and lack of proper information and knowledge.
Experts from Norway, Estonia and the United Kingdom presented good and bad practices from their own countries in the spheres of foster care, adoption and the child protection system as a whole. They were all united in the stance that working with parents and families should be enhanced.