“Opening Doors” for Spanish children

FEDAIA is the Catalan federation of third sector organisations supporting children, young people and families at risk. In the framework of Eurochild’s “Opening Doors for Europe’s Children” campaign, FEDAIA will explore ways to move from institutional settings to a community, family-based care model across Spain. Although the goal of developing children’s services following a community-based model is widely agreed upon, the implementation of this needs further investigation.

The seminar, which took place in collaboration with the Spanish branch of the International Federation of Educational Communities (FICE Spain), focused on the tools and frameworks available at EU level. It also explored tangible examples of community-based services for child protection and prevention, presented by ESN’s policy officer, Marianne Doyen.

Time for a major change in the Spanish social care model

The 2010 Spanish Law on the rights and opportunities of children and adolescents (also known as LDOIA) is a major landmark in the field. It makes provisions for substantial investment in children and young people’s services. Introducing the seminar, David Astiz, President of FICE Spain, suggested that “the objective [was] not to demonise or reject institutional care per se, but to show that alternative measures lead to better outcomes - especially for young children”.

The ‘Common European Guidelines’ and the ‘Toolkit on the Use of European Union Funds for the Transition from Institutional to Community Based (both available here in several languages) were presented as the reference instruments for the deinstitutionalisation (DI) of children’s services.

Investing in children’s services at the local level: ESN’s presentation

ESN presented a variety of alternative care measures implemented by local authorities across Europe. All have a duty of care and protection towards vulnerable children and families, and must act in “the best interests of the child”, as stipulated in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UN CRC).

Drawing on our work on ‘Investing in Children’s services, Improving Outcomes’, ESN provided expert advice and practical examples of children’s community-based services in the fields of prevention, protection, integrated services, ensuring permanence and stability of care, supporting the transition into adulthood, and listening to children. Examples included the Italian PIPPI programme which aims to prevent children’s institutional placement by working in collaboration with families, improving parental skills and strengthening their social networks. As children’s input about their care is increasingly promoted, some countries have developed specific schemes, such as dedicated chat and telephone lines in Sweden and personal assessment and care plans in France.

Foster care appears as one of the best alternatives to institutional care for children, and this was outlined in ESN’s presentation. There has been progress in recent years but the presentation emphasised that more can be done to develop foster care including by training future foster parents. In France, for example, foster parents receive 240 hours of training prior to taking up any care duty.  Improving their remuneration is also recommended (for instance in the form of vouchers or in-kind benefits used in Galicia).

Next steps

FEDAIA will organise two more seminars in 2017 in March (“Ethical and legal frameworks for a new care model for children at risk”) and May (“Reflections on the model of care for children at risk: good practices”).