In Ukraine, the number of children living in institutional care increases instead of decreasing mainly due to poverty and the conflict situation in the east of the country. Services to prevent child abandonment are significantly absent and families place their children in institutions themselves. There have been some institution closures during the last few years; unfortunately, they were not really closed but renamed or reclassified. The quality and type of care in these institutions, however, did not change. The key barriers to deinstitutionalisation are that it is not a priority for either the government and president or the process of the EU-Ukraine integration; there is a low capacity level of child protection professionals in relevant agencies who will implement these reforms, and, finally, social protection in Ukraine is a low priority for donors.
In Ukraine, approximately 81.4% of children are placed to institutions from their biological families1. The main reasons to place a child in an institution is the lack of social support services for families in situations of extreme poverty or facing unemployment, the absence of access to pre-school or school, the lack of community-based services, and the lack of inclusive education services including specialist services for children with disabilities.
By the end of 2015, the official statistics mentioned 71,401 children living in 615 institutions. However, the National Audit of child protection system, conducted by the Opening Doors National Coordinator HHC Ukraine showed that official statistics is not relevant to the real situation and that there are 99,915 children living in 663 institutions (actual at 1 September 2015).
During the last years, Ukraine has proceeded in the reform of its child care institutions. According to the data received from the directors of institutions, 345 of 663 institutions were “reformed” during 2010-2016 and 188 are planning to be reformed in the near future. The reality of the reforms are very different: it can be seen as a mere reclassification of the facilities, with the quality of care and protection remaining particularly low.
This is also reflected in the poor quality of care provided to children in institutions in Ukraine. The total annual budget for all institutions is 6.3 billion UAH (252 million USD), out of which only 10% is spent on children’s actual needs: food, clothes, and medicines; the rest goes on administrative expenses, salaries of the staff and maintenance of the buildings. Even though the overall budget for institutional care in Ukraine is high, the quality of care and protection remain very low. Life in the institution implies neither permanent relations with professionals, nor personal care or personal space. According to latest statistics, 1 carer is responsible for 38 children. Despite the fact there are more than 400 institutions for children with disabilities or developmental delays in Ukraine, there is only 1% of psychologists, less than 2% of speech therapists and 0.1% of occupational therapists among personnel of such institutions.
This low quality of care follows children after they leave institutions. Based on the analysis of a family-type institution in Dnipropetrovsk rayon, only 6% of care leavers were successfully integrated into the society (13,5% were imprisoned, 37% unemployed).
FAST FACTS & latest developments
- In 2015 there were 99,915 children in 663 institutions in Ukraine.
- Out of these children, 27,142 are children with disabilities living in 218 institutions and 13,165 are children with chronic diseases in 56 sanatoriums.
- 2,790 are children 0-3 years old in 38 institutions, making approx. 70 children per institution.
- There is an increase of approx. 28,000 children in institutional care in one year due to poverty and conflict in the East.
- In Ukraine, quality family- and community-based care alternatives are almost non-existent and are mainly run by the civil society organisations due to the lack of legislation supporting their development.
- Hope and Homes for Children and its partners succeeded to include in the National Strategy for Human Rights Protection (2015) some paragraphs about the development of a DI strategy and action plan.
- HHC Ukraine is the coordinator of the Ukrainian Opening Doors Campaign which consists of 63 partner
organisations promoting deinstitutionalisation reforms countrywide.
1 National Audit of Child Protection System, HHC Ukraine, 2015-2016