A safe and loving family environment is the best place for a child to thrive. For this reason, 120 organisations from 16 countries worked together in the Opening Doors for Europe’s Children campaign to strengthen families and end institutional care.
Opening Doors brought together 5 major international organisations – Eurochild, Hope and Homes for Children, the International Foster Care Organisation (IFCO), the European branch of the International Federation of Educative Communities (FICE Europe), and SOS Children’s Villages International. Together, Opening Doors aimed to support national efforts to develop child protection systems that strengthen families and ensure high-quality family- and community-based alternative care for children, by leveraging EU funding and policy and building capacity in civil society. The campaign ran in Austria, Belgium, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Estonia, Greece, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Spain, and Ukraine.
After 7 years of dedicated and passionate work, Opening Doors can look back at many achievements. Many campaign countries, such as Bulgaria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Romania and Ukraine, are increasingly prioritising child protection and deinstitutionalisation. It is particularly encouraging to observe the number of children living in family-based foster care slowly exceeding the number of children living in institutions.
On a European level, the European Semester Process now analyses deinstitutionalisation in a more comprehensive way. All EU campaign countries country Reports prioritise the transition from institutional to family and community-based care or inclusive education for the 2021-27 programming period. We are also pleased that proposals from the European Commission for the new EU budget 2021-2027 , supported by European Parliament and Council of the European Union, prioritise the transition from institutional to family-and community-based care, promote social inclusion, and strive to improve policy coherence and protection of children’s rights, especially those at risk or in care.
But the work is not over. Much more needs to be done to ensure that no child grows up in an institution, to prevent separation of children from their families for reasons of poverty, disability or other discriminatory practices, and to build strong child protection systems to ensure children are not harmed.
“Children are Europe’s greatest resource. It is Europe’s shame that some of our most vulnerable children are placed in so-called ‘care’ settings that do more harm than good. Important progress has been made but our work is far from over. We must learn lessons from the past and keep the pressure on the EU and national governments until every child gets the individualised care they deserve, and need to thrive.” – Jana Hainsworth, Secretary General, Eurochild.
“The Opening Doors campaign showed what can be achieved when we join efforts. But let’s not forget that many children continue to live in harmful institutions and are at risk of being separated from their families. As the new EU leadership settles in their roles, we all need to step up our efforts to ensure families can stay together and that all children receive the individualised care they need and deserve.” – Michela Costa, Head of Global Advocacy, Hope and Homes for Children.
While the campaign is ending, the work continues. As civil society actors engaged in the protection and promotion of children’s rights, we will continue to advocate for comprehensive reforms of child protection systems and monitor the EU fund support.
More information about Opening Doors and its impact can be read in the final report, which will be released at the Opening Doors closing event on 15 January 2020.