Children and young people in Estonia ask for a better alternative care system


As Estonia takes upon the presidency of the council of the European Union on 1 July 2017, children and young people with alternative care experience develop a manifesto where they call on Estonian government to prioritise child care system reform more explicitly.  The manifesto has been launched on 4 June 2017 in the city of Paide, at the sixth annual event “Every Child Needs a Family” on the occasion of International Children’s Day.

In a Children and Young People Manifesto on Child Protection in Estonia, children and young people urged Estonian government to take concrete steps towards the delivery of a child protection reform that ensure best interests and needs of each child.

In the manifesto, children ask for the governmental support to ensure stable relationships with their caregivers, both in residential and family-based care settings. Children and young people also call for an after care support of the care leavers during their transition towards independent living.

Currently, children in residential care receive state support until they complete higher education. This, however, does not apply to children from family-based care settings who are supported only until 19 years of age. Furthermore, state does not provide support to those children who do not continue higher education — they are likely to leave care without adequate means or resources for the independent living.

The Manifesto was handed to the Minister of Social Affairs, Mrs Kaia Iva, ahead of the Estonian presidency to the EU. It will be followed by a meeting of the Minister with young people who worked on the manifesto. During the meeting on the 5th July, the Minister will also introduce the national plan for alternative care for children. It is expected that this will include development of services in the community, development of family-based care for children without parental care and development of support services for care leavers.

“This is a first step to connect children and young people with care experience with the Government. We believe that the Minister will take into account children’s and young people’s voices and that child protection system in Estonia will follow their requests” stated Ms Jane Snaith, Chair of Igale Lapselse Pere, Coordinator of the Campaign in Estonia.

“Not only on Children’s Day, but of course, throughout the year, we need to think how to ensure that our children grow up in a happy and safe environment. The best place for them to grow up is a loving family. We hope that children without parental care could gradually move towards the guardianship and family-based solutions, such as foster care, that will provide them with a stable and caring environment, ” said Minister of Social Affairs Kaia Iva.

By the end of 2015, there were 1,068 children in 38 residential care settings and 1,486 children in family-based care in Estonia. 205 out of 1,486 children are placed in foster care whilst the rest being placed in kinship care. Community-based services are not developed enough to support vulnerable families with children; children deprived of parental care that grow up in residential care are often overlooked.

  • Read more about institutional care in Estonia here
  • See full text of Children’s Manifesto here