Deinstitutionalisation in Poland: Time for a National Strategy

poland-should-prioritise-di_04112018“Poland should prioritise strengthening families and adopt a national strategy on deinstitutionalisation”, says Tomasz Polkowski, Opening Doors for Europe’s Children coordinator in Poland and President of the Child and Family Foundation

The Child and Family Foundation has formed a coalition called “For the Child and Family” advocating for the development of a national strategy on deinstitutionalisation.

“Despite several positive developments in the sector of child protection over the last few years, we still need a lot of changes at the national level. First of all, we need a national action plan what to do with all the institutions with tens of thousands of children still placed in them. The transition plans at national level are not underpinned by a strategic vision or a state goal to close down those institutions,” adds Tomasz Polkowski.

The Coalition calls for change in use of the EU and national resources to prioritise family strengthening, support programs and community-based services. “Local communities should be empowered to take over the role in the provision of family- and community-based care and securing funding for these services,” concludes Mr Polkowski.

Evidence of the Opening Doors for Europe’s Children campaign demonstrates that the number of institutions for children in 2017 in Poland grew by 3.7% in comparison to 2016. This is due to the new regulation that lowered the number of children to 14 in one institution. As a result, many new institutions have been created either through the division of the old-type large-scale institutions or through the establishment of new group homes. The number of children in institutions under the Ministry of Family, Labor and Social Policy has lowered by 3,8 % in 2017. However, it is of great concern that out of 41,200 children in institutional care in Poland, 3,200 children (7,8%) are below the age of 10 and there are no plans for their transition to family- or community-based care. Furthermore, approximately 15,000 children with disabilities live in institutional care settings in Poland that are predominantly run by the Ministry of Education. In 2017, 12,077 children with various forms of disability lived in special education boarding schools due to the lack of inclusive education options available in their communities. 75% of these children had scarce contact with their birth families.

The Opening Doors for Europe’s Children campaign urges the Government of Poland to adopt a comprehensive national strategy on deinstitutionalisation and develop an action plan that leads to sustainable reform and efficient use of EU funds and national resources. In addition, we recommend continuing the development of high-quality, timely and professional alternative care options for children.

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