On 19-20 April 2017, national coordinators and international partners of the Opening Doors campaign met in Brussels to discuss progress with transformation of the child protection systems at national level. The meeting gathered representatives of leading national NGOs from 16 campaign countries and five international organisations – Eurochild, FICE Europe, Hope and Homes for Children, IFCO and SOS Children’s Villages International – to share experiences, showcase positive practices and to inspire each other to further the change through joint action.
The first day of the meetings focused on peer-to-peer learning, information exchange and horizontal cooperation. “The campaign makes our voices louder and more significant on the ground; meeting colleagues from other European countries make them resonate across the continent,” says Kateryna Zalievska, national campaign coordinator in Ukraine. “Being a National Coordinator shows that our cause is a common issue for many countries in Europe. We use the shared knowledge of the campaign to change the situation for children in Bulgaria for better,” adds Mila Tashkova from Bulgaria.
Interactive discussions, brainstorming and workshop sessions on the 19th April were followed by face-to-face meetings with the EU officials from DG EMPL, DG REGIO, EEAS, DG NEAR on 20th April 2017. During the meetings with EU policy-makers, national campaign coordinators provided updates on the state of play with child care and child protection system reforms in their countries. They acknowledged the important role that the EU plays in strengthening families and delivering better outcomes for children, both in terms of policy guidance and funding tools, and called on the EU to keep the process of deinstitutionalisation (DI) high on the political agenda and support the progress at national level. National coordinators voiced their concerns about the monitoring of appropriate allocation and use of the EU funds in ensuring sustainability of services and DI reforms. It was agreed that this communication will continue through field visits, participation in national and regional events and direct meetings with beneficiaries in alternative care settings as both sides found the meetings mutually beneficial.
“Meetings in Brussels with EU representatives enabled to get the message from hundreds of thousands of children that still live in institutional care in Europe across: institutional care is damaging, and there are more efficient ways to use the tax-payers’ money. It is crucial that the collective will and efforts are harnessed as an engine of change for better outcomes, ensuring that EU funds and policy make a positive difference for vulnerable families and children in European region,” said Katerina Nanou, Campaign Coordinator.
Following the meetings, the Opening Doors for Europe’s Children campaign released a call for action urging the EU and national governments to fulfil their responsibility to support families and to provide quality alternative care solutions for children.