Skip main navigation

Why is data important in deinstitutionalisation strategies?

Volodymyr Kuzminskyi explains the different factors considered when developing deinstitutionalisation strategies, programmes and budgets
When we’re talking about deinstitutionalisation, we mainly mean it’s reducing the reliance on the institution, because if you look now what’s happening in particular in Eastern Europe– former Soviet Union countries– and even worldwide, we can see basically the residential care services is the only option for children who are, let’s say, deprived of parental care. When we’re talking about deinstitutionalisation, we have to take that in mind. It’s, first of all, reducing the reliance on the services. The second one we are saying about deinstitutionalisation, it’s also developing a range of services to prevent separation. So, the more services we have which prevent the necessity to send the child to send to the institution, the better.
It’s basically talking again– thirdly, talking about deinstitutionalisation, we can say it’s a principle of suitability. So the policy– a governmental policy– should basically aim to provide as much as possible options for children if there is a case that we cannot keep child in the family. So the government– it’s their obligation, their main duty bears to provide the different options for the child. It shouldn’t be only a residential care. It should be first of all– it might be foster care, it might be kinship care, it might be the best solution, which should be basically always using principle, the best interest of the child. So that’s what deinstitutionalisation– that’s what we mean doing of that.
So, if the government decides to follow that strategy, so then the next stage– OK, they have to take in mind something. There are certain preconditions that should be in place. The most important, from my experience– precondition– deinstitutionalisation would be successful only when you’ve got a certain precondition in the country. First of all, I would say it’s a public opinion. It’s a public opinion that the child has the rights, and the child’s best interests should be put first. And there is a political will. Talking about residential care institution, I would like to make one stress, because the residential care institution– it’s, again, considered in different places of the world differently.
For example, residential care institution in the UK is something very different than the residential care services, let’s say in Ukraine, where I’m from. Usually in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, when we’re talking about the residential care institution, it’s a large institution. It’s basically– we just can’t accommodate it. More than 100 people. So, that’s not basically what residential care services in the UK or some other countries. So, I’m talking about this condition, as I said– the political view, the public opinion as well, and the helpfulness of the large residential care for children is also very important precondition.
In spite, unfortunately, of different researches which we basically– about the harmfulness of the large scale institution, in particular for children, in particular for young children under three years, sometimes this form of care is still very acceptable, not only because– just because there is a public opinion. People think it’s good– it’s normal– to place child under three years institution. That’s what needs to be changed. A lot of work should be done in this area to change this. So I call it– it’s the first stage– the first building block to moving ahead.
When we reach that stage, the next point is to say, OK, now, if the public opinion– if it’s clear that we have to follow this route, then we have to develop a certain policy. Policy and legislation should be in place, then we are moving in the direction, which would be basically passed to the appropriate authority– Parliament, government, and so on. And a budget should be attached to that, of course, because it’s very bad practice, which in particular in the former Soviet Union, when the government adopts in theory very good law and other legislation saying, yeah, we are moving in that direction for deinstitutionalisation. But in fact, there is no money for that.
So it means– it’s an empty piece of paper. So once we pass these two stages, so the next third stage, we’ll say, OK, now we have to think about the national monitoring system. And I’ll come back to this point a little later, because I think it’s very important. The fourth stage, now– we know set-up a monitoring system– the next stage we should talk about the decision making bodies. What I mean under that, at the moment– so if we want to basically have our system operational well– child protection, child welfare, whatever term we use– we have to have one agency responsible– or I would say one gate– through which gate children go to alternative care, and then children return through them.
If you’ve got many doors open, it will be almost impossible ensure the best interests of the children. So I’m calling it good decision making system. So once we reach all the steps– you see, we like building the pyramid. We like building the building blocks, and you can see on the slides, which I specifically prepared for that. So the next– almost on top of the pyramid– it’s very important, and I put it somewhere on top. It’s a range of available services, which I already mentioned earlier. Why did I separate this? Because all this previous building block, it’s connected with the national policy.
When we reach this stage, it moves more closely to the local level, or regional level– depends on the country context– because the range of services might be different in one locality from the other locality, and that’s normal. This range of services should be developed based on the needs assessment, because every community has their own problem. In one city, we were at one problem, which just might be totally different from another city. So, local authority knows– at least should know– what’s going on, and they should develop a certain range of services which meets the needs of the children in the best way.
So, once we reach that– so we reach the top of our pyramid, which we’re saying now– if we’re talking about large residential care, now what is the stage when we need to plan properly whatever the option? It might be closure, it might be a transformation in community based services, it might be something different. We have to plan carefully how to better utilise existing resources. So, having even the large residential care institution, we know there are a lot of people working there, many of them are very qualified. We know, basically, there is a building facility and infrastructure, which can be easily used.
So, the final point– when we reach– we have to basically develop a clear plan with a clear finance, and answer the three main important questions, which I am always repeating when I talk to the officials in many countries. When you talk about the institution, you don’t have to jump straight away on that stage. You have to pass all that. But when you reach the stage, you have to answer certain questions. The first– which is most important– what to do with children. So we have to understand what to do with every single child.
We have to assess the needs of the child, we have to assess the situation around this child, you have to assess the resources available in the community where child came from. The second question is what to do with staff, so we have to assess the staff. You have to understand how to use this staff. Maybe you wanted great resources for the community-based services for the developing family support services, which is prevent separation at the earlier stage. So that question is very important, and we all know because it’s people.
If you skip this stage you will have a strong resistance, because the staff who are working in the institution, they are working for– they are professionals, they are working for many years, and if you don’t provide them clear perspective what would be their future, they might create lots of obstacles for you, and your deinstitutionalisation plan for this particular institution might never succeed. And then the third question– which is final– what to do with the building. So, we want something, we have to do something with that.
It doesn’t mean, necessarily, you have to create artificial services if it doesn’t work– if it doesn’t fit for - I’ve worked in many– from my experience– places, where– many institutions, for example, in Central Asia, they were set up in a rural, remote area. What can you do? So my advice was, OK, the best way– just sell this building. Anybody can open some business there. You cannot keep it for services. It’s not suitable. It’s not feasible. It would take all your money, so there is no good reason. So, answering this question, it would be at the later stage on the top of our pyramid, and basically when you do the proper deinstitutionalisation strategy.
Now I would like to come back to the point– which I mentioned earlier– it’s a national monitoring system, as I said. So I think it’s an underestimated issue– in whole– this process. And I would say, in many countries in particular– from my experience in former Soviet Union– there are lots of money invested in the entire process, and there is many stages where I build, but because of their lack in data, we couldn’t track the progress. We couldn’t prove that we are successful or not. So I’m always– when I’m talking to people about the importance of data– I always remember this phrase which we all know, which we say no data, no problem, no action.
So, that’s exactly what happened with deinstitutionalisation. I can draw your attention, even on that slide, where we know the famous British economist, John Keynes, said the government hates to be informed– they don’t want it, because that makes their process of decision making so difficult. That’s exactly true. I experienced this many times in many countries by seeing– just government doesn’t want to know. They say, oh, we don’t have this problem at all. But you bring them real data, say, guys, look at this. You do have a problem. When we’re talking about child abuse, you do have many cases of child abuse, we just did the research in one institution and we discovered that 70% of children suffered from abuse and neglect.
You do have to– and that’s a very important starting point when people start thinking, all right. So, coming back to the national monitoring system. For example, recently in the project we joined in Central Asia, we brought this issue to the politician to talk about this. And as I said, first reaction was just, we don’t have this problem, we don’t have nothing. I said, all right– we offer them help and say, OK, let’s develop a simple– talking about residential care– let’s develop a simple monitoring system. Let’s look at a map of Kyrgyzstan, like it shows on that slide. We put all institutions simple as the dots on the map, just from all systems.
Here you have the education system institution, health system institution, and social development institution. If you want to know more, for example, where children came from in this particular institution, you just click, and you can see a simple visual distribution. And you can see the map, the more that colour, the more children came from that region. And for politicians, when they met and showed the map, they were amazed, because first of all, they love visual effects, and they can see straight away. They don’t have to read 100 pages to understand where children are from. They look at this– oh, I can see probably in that locality we have some problems. I said, exactly.
Probably something happened there, or something is going wrong. That’s what you need to look at. But if you need more detail, you can click on that locality, and that’s my third slide, which you can see. And it even shows you the distribution of children from the villages where they are from. So we just provide such level of details. So I think there’s just such simple instruments, like providing a database which can back up your points, which can also show you and which can help you ask and monitor their success. I think it’s very underestimated, but it’s an extremely crucial point for deinstitutionalisation. Thank you.

In the video above, we hear from Volodymyr Kuzminskyi. Volodymyr is from Ukraine and is currently a consultant for Oxford Policy Management in the Social Care Services team. He has a PhD in Planning, Management and Regulation of Economy and a Master’s Degree in the Management of Organisations.

Volodymyr has extensive experience advising governments in different countries on policy and social care services development. He has also provided technical assistance to such bodies as UNICEF and the European Union.

Previously, Volodymyr was the Country Director of EveryChild Ukraine. This NGO worked in collaboration with the Government to design and pilot child protection services and support the development of national child protection policy.

Developing deinstitutionalisation strategies

Volodymyr tells us about the different factors governments and others need to consider when developing deinstitutionalisation strategies, programmes, and budgets.

He emphasises that having accurate data is still overlooked in many countries. Without data, it is not possible to truly understand what the current situation is regarding children at risk of losing or, without, parental care.

This means there is often no evidence-based knowledge about the reasons children are at risk and, therefore, which services are required to address these situations.

There is often little or no data available regarding the number and other details of children that come into care, where they are, how long they stay and, other such information. Without data it is also difficult, if not impossible, to set targets and indicators and measure results.

National and local data systems

Building national and local data systems are therefore of great importance. Volodymyr tells us about one such system he has been working on in Kyrgyzstan.

Volodymyr explains why an interactive mapping system of children in institutional care has been developed in order to capture the attention of politicians, policy makers, and other stakeholders.

The database Volodymyr tells us about has been developed through a European Union funded project called ‘Support to the implementation of the Sector Reform Contract: Social Protection Kyrgyzstan’.

This article is from the free online

Getting Care Right for All Children: Implementing the UN Guidelines for the Alternative Care of Children

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Reach your personal and professional goals

Unlock access to hundreds of expert online courses and degrees from top universities and educators to gain accredited qualifications and professional CV-building certificates.

Join over 18 million learners to launch, switch or build upon your career, all at your own pace, across a wide range of topic areas.

Start Learning now