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Evaluation report

2012 Bulgaria: Evaluation of the project "Expansion of foster care model in Bulgaria"



Author: Team of evaluators with team leader Alexey Pamporov

Executive summary

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Background:

In Bulgaria foster care was first introduced in 1990s with the objective of providing family based service for children who could eventually be integrated in their biological family at a later stage. However, sustainable results were not observed until recently, but compared to other countries in the region, in Bulgaria foster care system is still underdeveloped.  UNICEF has been providing support to develop foster care from 2006 but it was with a project starting in 2009 that in 2012  led to a 300% increase of the number of foster parents in the country, introduction of foster care for new-born babies and increase in awareness on foster care -  at the beginning of the project there were about 300 foster families and now there are more than 1000. This type of care proved to be main instrument of the process of closing of institutions, both as a tool for prevention and reintegration. The project duration was sufficient for problems to be revealed in legislation and implementation practice. Furthermore, the need of additional services to children placed in foster care also became obvious.  

For that reason an evaluation of the project implementation was commissioned in order to provide with recommendations for improvement of foster care in general and UNICEF planning of further activities in particular.

Purpose/Objective:

The main objective of the assignment is evaluation of the UNICEF project “Expansion of Foster Care Model in Bulgaria” in order to measure the relevance, effectiveness, efficiency and sustainability of the intervention. The project is evaluated in relation with its external environment, in particular in relation with government plans and with similar approaches or programme interventions tested by other partners.

The specific objectives include: 
• an evaluation of whether the planned objectives and results of the project have been achieved considering  effectiveness; 
• an evaluation on whether child wellbeing has been in the centre of the project and whether it has brought positive  impact on vulnerable children;
• an assessment of the impact of the project on development of foster care nationally; 
• an identification of gaps in the planning and implementation of the project.

Methodology:

The methodology is developed in line with the evaluation approach chosen. The methodology includes specification and justification of the design of the evaluation and the techniques for data collection and analysis. The selected methodology answers the evaluation questions using credible evidence. A clear distinction is made between the different result levels (intervention logic containing an objective-means hierarchy stating input, output, outcome, impact). Indicators for measuring achievement of the objectives are validated according to generally accepted criteria, such as SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely).

- Evaluation management

Data gathering and analysis
• Desk Review of the Expansion of Foster Care Model project
• Desk review of the national legislation
• In-depth interviews (N=76)
• Focused group discussions (N=6)
• National Representative survey (N=1149)
• Quantitative survey of foster parents (N=118)
• Official statistics

Data validation procedures

Outcome presentation

- As per ToR regulations the evaluators have based their assessment on the DAC criteria

Findings and Conclusions:

The short-time goals were completely fulfilled:
1. UNICEF built up a foster care model based on regional centres but enforcing a common practice of the social service
2. An unified training programme for social workers (trainers) and applicants (potential foster parents) was created.
3. An informational campaign run on national and local level.
4. The project developed the capacity of the partners on the process of providing “foster care” service and they are going to continue their work after 2012 joining the governmental foster care project.
5. The UNICEF set up a financial standard for FC service, which is taken in consideration by the recently started governmental foster care project

The UNICEF project is implemented in variety of regional contexts and lessons learnt and good practices of its implementation create opportunities for scaling up the policy of deinstitutionalization through foster care nationally.

The policy relevance of the project is related with the realization of deinstitutionalisation policy objectives for a massive expansion of opportunities for provision of "foster care" (in one third of the regions in the country) combined with broader goals of national social policy for job creation in small and remote regions in time of crises.

In addition to the impact on child welfare policy in a local context, the big number of jobs created within the project, especially in underdeveloped regions and localities, contribute to mitigating the impact of the economic crisis. 

The project is fully in line with the spirit, philosophy and principles the domestic and international policy documents and legislation in the area of children’s rights and de-institutionalization, incl. the UNICEF Priorities for Bulgaria. 

Recommendations:

There is a need of a new complex project based on the above three components: maintaining of existing cares, expending regional coverage and bettering the work with biological families and their relation with the children placed in foster care.

Operational recommendations 

UNICEF should
• keep consulting the governmental institutions in order to secure better succession of the model.
• secure the continuation of advocacy efforts to discuss the single costs standard to finance foster care services and taking into account in its design the outcomes from foster care projects and policies implementation
• do an independent monitoring on the foster care activities for the next three years – allocated state budgets, children placed in foster care etc.
• Strengthening regional planning and prioritizing foster care programs and allocating more funding for foster care in areas where a lack of balance between supply and demand for foster care is identified

General recommendations (beyond the UNICEF project)
• Establishment of centralized database on foster families and kids in foster care is needed.  
• In the regions with higher proportion ethnic minority groups, an additional effort should be made to encourage and underpin training and employment of social workers from ethnic minorities.
• In general, it seems appropriate to strengthen direct social work with children in foster care, as in many cases, despite their initial preparation and skills attained, foster parents are not able to provide the most adequate support to children that can be received by professionals such as child psychologists, professional educators and others.
• The training program of foster parents should be broadened to provide a continuous and thorough preparation of FP and children on child rights.
• Further development of legislation is necessary 



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