Putting Child Protection and Family Care at the Heart of EU External Action

ChildPact is one of the supporting organisation of the report “Putting Child Protection and Family Care at the Heart of EU External Action”, created by Hope and Homes for Children  and Lumos.  The report highlights key features of the phenomenon of institutionalisation of children and presents a set of recommendations for the EU to support child protection and care system reform.

The joint report analyses the harm of institutionalisation as a phenomenon and the reasons why children end up in institutions, offering important arguments and insights on the solution – supporting families and transitioning to family and community-based care – and the legislative and policy case for transition to family and community-based care.  General Recommendations to the EU are included in the document, along with specific recommendations to European Commission’s DG DEVCO, DG Home, DG NEAR, and the Office of the Anti-trafficking Coordinator, the European External Action Service, the European Parliament, the Council of the EU and the European Investment Bank.

Executive Summary

Globally, an estimated eight million children live in institutions because they are poor, have a disability, or belong to a marginalised group. More than 80 percent are not orphans. Whilst most institutions for children (also commonly known as orphanages) are established with good intentions, over 80 years of research from across the world proves that children in institutions, who are deprived of loving parental care, can suffer lifelong physical and psychological harm. The European Union (EU) has already taken leadership in recognising and tackling this issue and has sent a strong message to its Member States to act. The Regulations for the EU Cohesion Policy investment, adopted in December 2013, stated for the first time that European Structural and Investment (ESI) Funds were prohibited to be spent on any action that contributes to segregation or to social exclusion, and included specific calls for the funds to be used to support the “transition from institutional to community-based services”. Moreover, in order to access ESI Funds under the thematic objective “Promoting social inclusion, combating poverty and any discrimination”, Member States need to have a national strategy for poverty reduction in place, including measures to shift from institutional to community based care. This effectively means that ESI Funds cannot be used to build or refurbish institutions, but should instead support the process of deinstitutionalisation.

To ensure better outcomes for children, fulfil its human rights commitments and achieve policy coherence, it is essential for the EU to also apply the same principles in the framework of its external action. This is a key step to realise the Sustainable Development Goals and ensure that the 2030 agenda meets its promise to leave no one behind.

The process of child protection and care reform or ‘deinstitutionalisation’, as outlined in this report, consists of planning the transformation of the entire care system. This involves strengthening and creating a diverse range of family- and community-based services that take into account the individual needs of each child and closing institutions for children.

You can download the paper here.