No child is to be placed into residential care if the timely help for parents is received - convinces the experience of EveryChild Ukraine in Kyiv Oblast, where starting from 2009 together with local authorities an innovative for Ukraine and CIS mechanism of gate-keeping is developed.
During his speech at international conference "In the Best Interests of a Child. Contemporary Approaches to Prevention of Child Abandonment: Russian and International Experiences" which took place in St-Petersburg on the 3rd of June, Volodymyr Kuzminskyy - Country Director of EveryChild Ukraine presented following figures:
"Introduction of gate-keeping mechanism in Kyiv Oblast lead to prevention of child placement into residential institutions - 2674 children - 2006; 2660 children - 2007; 2420 children - 2008, including decrease in number of children placed into Oblast level residential institutions; strengthened tendency to place children into family-typed care, increased the number of prevented cases of child abandonment and cases of child placement into baby homes (for children under 3 years old) - 75 children - 2007, 62 children - 2008, 25 children - 2009".
Gatekeeping has been defined as policies, procedures and services to restrict the flow of children into institutions and contribute to their onward progression back to families or substitute families.
The proposition to establish a gatekeeping system looks disarmingly simple. Gate-keeping consists of four components:
- An agency responsible for coordinating the assessment of the child's situation;
- A range of family support services in the community, including foster care and adoption, that are alternatives to care in an institution;
- Decision-making based on assessment of the child's needs and circumstances;
- Information systems to monitor and review decisions and their outcomes.
Conference participants also find out more about psycho-medical-pedagogical consultations functioning in Kyiv Oblast, interagency group to monitor and assess children at the Kiev Oblast Baby Home (in Bila Tserkva), the interdepartmental team to develop and implement individual care plans for care-leavers of residential institutions (in 2 pilot areas of the Kyiv region), a team of specialists involved in the evaluation process (e.g., involvement of school social workers in Brovary).
These interagency bodies ensure that decision on the deprivation of parental rights is not only made by the guardianship authority. Views of teachers, police are taken into consideration also and most importantly - authorities listen to parents to understand what they lack to care for their children adequately.
"Ironically, financial assistance plays not a major role in efforts to keep children in a family" - Every Child Ukraine's deputy director Vasilina Dybaylo said in her speech dedicated to integrated social services for children and families
Much more importantly, in her opinion, to ensure timely access to social and other services for family members. In her presentation she highlighted the experience of one-stop-shop approach introduced in Brovary social services in Kyiv region, innovation which led clients to the full package of social services provided at the local level.
Employees of social services help parents to take advantage of the services provided, as usually they don't know about their existence. Most frequently - those are state aid and charity programs.
"Usually a family in hard living circumstances needs to solve not one but a whole set of problems where one type of care may not be enough", - explained V. Dybaylo.
"Because of imperfectness of the system, parents are visited by various specialists, thus they have to refer to various instances located in different places. It is certainly doesn't lead to establishing good working relationships based on trust between parents, children and social workers, and as a result - children continue to get into institutional care, "- she concluded.
The Conference "In the Best Interests of a Child. Contemporary Approaches to Prevention of Child Abandonment: Russian and International Experiences" was attended by representatives of legislative and executive authorities of the Russian Federation: State Duma Committee on Women, Family and Children, the Federation Council, the Ministry of Education and Science, Ministry of Health and Social Development, representatives of executive authorities of subjects of Russia, responsible for working to prevent child abandonment and family placement of orphans and children left without parental care, UNICEF, the Commissioner of the President of Russia's and regional commissioners on children's rights rights, members of the Public Chamber of Russia, Russian and international experts in the field of child protection, children's rights NGO representatives, and media.