Coverage of Children in Alternative Care in the Child Guarantee National Action Plans Analysed under the DataCare Project

Eurochild and UNICEF release new analysis of how National Action Plans commit to helping children in alternative care with a focus on data coverage and indicators that will be used to measure progress.

For the approximately 760,000 children in alternative care in the European Union, the European Child Guarantee is a crucial opportunity to measure progress on deinstitutionalisation and the transition to community and family-based care. In doing so, it can catalyse reform and meaningful improvement of the lives and prospects of one of Europe’s most disadvantaged groups of children.

With Eurochild and UNICEF’s newly published policy brief, Children in alternative care in the Child Guarantee National Action Plans - A summative analysis, we assess available National Action Plans (NAPs) and issue our recommendations to ensure effective policy monitoring for these children.

Key findings from our analysis:

Based on Eurochild and UNICEF’s earlier research in the DataCare project, we know that data is regularly collected and published on children in alternative care in countries in Europe. This data can be used to calculate basic indicators for measuring progress in deinstitutionalisation and transition to community- and family-based care.

To aid the EU and Member States in their work to take this forward, Eurochild has analysed the 20 publicly available (as of 1 March 2023) European Child Guarantee NAPs to assess how Member States commit to measures to address inequalities for children in alternative care, and if these measures will be monitored effectively.

Below are key findings from our analysis:

  • 16 countries include specific measures and actions to support children in alternative care in their NAPs.
  • 12 countries refer specifically to measures to improve the situation of care leavers in their NAPs, such as supporting the transition to independent living or continued state support to meet their needs.
  • 7 countries specify the need for dedicated measures for children with disabilities, due to their disproportionate representation in alternative care placements.
  • 17 countries are using existing data to describe the situation of children in alternative care in their NAPs. Most commonly used variables for data on children in alternative care are age, sex, and disability status.
  • 10 countries have monitoring frameworks including some or all of the indicators that Eurochild and UNICEF ECARO have recommended through our DataCare research.
  • 8 countries specify how EU and/or national financial resources will be used to fund measures to reduce the risk of poverty and increase the social inclusion of children in alternative care.

Recommendations for action:

These results show that there is a real momentum for change to improve the availability, quality and international comparability of data on children in alternative care across EU countries.

Therefore, Eurochild and UNICEF encourage countries in Europe to develop comprehensive monitoring and evaluation frameworks for children in alternative care and strengthen their alternative care information systems to close data gaps and improve data quality and comparability over time. Children themselves have a critical role to play in these processes too.

Specifically, Eurochild and UNICEF are recommending:

  • For the European Commission and in particular the Social Protection Committee – Indicator Sub-Group to:
    - Develop guidance on monitoring progress in EU child policy implementation and evaluating outcomes for children – engaging also civil society and children in this process;
    - Use the available data from national sources on children in alternative care to fill in the gaps in EU-level data collection in this area;
    - Invest in the methodological work required to allow more comparable results.
  • For Eurostat and National Statistical Offices in the EU to actively engage in the operationalisation of the Guidance on Statistics on Children endorsed by the 70th plenary session of the Conference of European Statisticians in 2022.
  • For the European Commission to continue supporting Member States through the Technical Support Instrument in the implementation and monitoring of their national strategies and action plans on children’s rights and the European Child Guarantee.
  • For Governments to seize the available policy instruments and support mechanisms and work with National Statistical Offices on assessing the quality of their data systems on children in alternative care, and develop and implement data improvement plans – engaging also civil society and children in these processes.

Further information:

Photo: ©UNICEF/UN0220898/Anush Babajanyan VII

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