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2012 Moldova: Evaluation of Implementation of the National Strategy & Action Plan for the Reform of the Residential Childcare System in Moldova 2007-2012



Author: Peter Evans- international expert in child protection

Executive summary

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Background:

The Government of Moldova launched its child care reforms in 2006 aiming to establish a network of community social assistants, develop family support services and alternative family placement services, and reorganise residential child care institutions. The National Strategy and Action Plan for the Reform of the Residential Childcare System 2007-2012 was approved by the Government of Moldova in July 2007.  The goal of the National Strategy and Action Plan was to “ensure and respect the child’s right to grow up in a family.”  The overall objectives of the Action Plan were to reduce the number of children living outside a family by 50% and to reorganise residential institutions to support children in families.  Central and local government and NGOs were to work together to implement the Action Plan consisted of seven components aimed to:
1. To make changes to the legal environment to protect vulnerable children
2. Develop local community-based services to support children and families
3. Improve the skills of staff to better protect vulnerable children
4. Reorganise residential institutions towards supporting children and families
5. To redirect government spending away from institutions towards supporting community-based services
6. To change public opinion about residential care, and
7. To monitor services for children and families

This evaluation was commissioned by UNICEF Moldova, the Government of Moldova and NGO partners in 2012 and managed on behalf of the partners by Terre des hommes, Moldova.  Fieldwork for the evaluation was conducted in March - June 2012 by experts of IMAS Marketing & Polls, Chişinău, Moldova assisted by an international expert in child protection, Peter Evans.

The National Strategy and Action Plan for the Reform of the Residential Childcare System was approved by the Government of Moldova in July 2007 with country-wide application.  This evaluation has considered its implementation across the country except for Transnistria.

Purpose/Objective:

The overall objective of this evaluation is to evaluate qualitative and quantitative results and achievements of the implementation of the National Strategy and Action Plan during 2007-2012 in relation to the planned objectives.

The specific objectives as set out in the Terms of Reference for the Evaluation  are:
• To provide insight into the current status of the childcare system reform and strategic recommendations for the next steps in the reform process relevant for all engaged stakeholders.
• To assess the position of the National Strategy and Action Plan for the reform of the residential childcare system and links with overall reforms of the child care system.
• To evaluate the impact of the reform on children’s lives, especially the most vulnerable children.

Methodology:

The nature of a national social policy initiative such as the National Strategy and Action Plan requires the use of a range of methods and tools to evaluate its strategic and operational implementation at central and local government level and its impact on the lives of individual children and families.  Consequently a broad range of methods was used between 26th March and 9th June 2012 to obtain data to inform the evaluation including:
• Desk review of key background documents
• Semi-structured interviews with stakeholders including children and families
• Study visits to institutions and families
• Focus group discussions, and
• A national telephone survey

Findings and Conclusions:

Relevance The National Strategy and Action Plan 2007-2012 (hereinafter Strategy) was the first document to outline fundamental strategic directions to improve the child protection system in Moldova.  There are clear to primary legislation, particularly the Law on Social Services adopted in 2010.  It is understood that Government is planning to develop a new strategy for wider reform of child and family protection.  Experience gained through implementation of these documents   will be invaluable to the development and implementation of the new, wider strategy for child and family protection.Effectiveness: There appears to be a disconnect or a lack of clarity between the policy priorities of central government towards the protection of vulnerable children and families and implementation of those priorities by some LPAs.  Reform of residential childcare appears to have moved forward in raions where there is a personal commitment and leadership by senior political figures supported by the technical expertise of NGOs.    Devices and processes are required to incentivise slower moving raions to implement government priorities and exert direction on LPAs that act contrary to central government policy.Sustainability: The ability of the MoE and LPAs to continue the reform process in respect of the 23 institutions identified for closure between 2012 and 2015 will depend either on NGOs being able to secure donor funding to implement action, or the Government contracting reform services from NGOs.  Human-rights-based approach: The Strategy  explicitly acknowledges the State’s responsibility to observe the provisions of the UN CRC and “respect the right of the child to grow up in a family.”  But the right to grow up in a family is only one of the rights of the child.  Implementation of reforms so far has had less impact on children with disabilities and young children living in institutions.

Recommendations:

A summary of recommendations is listed below.
1. Continue deinstitutionalisation activity, with a particular focus on children with disabilities and young children living in institutions, in addition to children in Ministry of Education institutions.
2. Plan and implement the redirection of budget savings from deinstitutionalisation to fund community-based services for vulnerable children and families.
3. Investigate why few children are living in foster families compared to the much larger number of children living in institutions.
4. Examine social work information management systems in other countries to consider solutions appropriate in Moldova.
5. Adopt an interim, low-technology process to monitor admissions and discharges from institutions.
6. Government should take over running costs of the DI unit in the Ministry of Education.
7. Responsibility to coordinate action on childcare reforms should be passed to the National Council for Child Rights Protection in the State Chancellery.  The Deputy Chair of National Council for Child Rights Protection should periodically report to the Deputy Prime Minister on reform progress.
8. Implement action to improve efficiency and effectiveness of the Ajutor Social scheme.
9. Institute a system of annual Community Social Protection Planning by LPAs to implement central government social protection policy priorities.
10. Arrangements to transfer management responsibility for residential institutions to LPAs should be agreed by LPAs, central government and NGOs on an individual basis.
11. Improve the effectiveness of community social assistants to manage deinstitutionalisation and prevention plans for individual children by consolidating their training into a nationally regulated system.

Lessons Learned:

The National Strategy & Action Plan addresses one particular aspect of child and family policy, albeit an important policy; deinstitutionalisation and the reform of the residential care system. In 2012 the Government intends to consult on the development of a wider strategy to protect and promote the welfare of children and families. In the opinion of the evaluators there are lessons to be learned from implementation of the National Strategy & Action Plan for the Reform of the Residential Childcare System that could usefully be applied in a wider strategy for children and families. 

Individual lessons may have more resonance than others but in the opinion of the evaluators the failure to Create a national database on children and families in difficulty, has limited the ability of strategic and operational managers to monitor the impact of the Action Plan, not least to track if and where discrimination based gender or ethnicity has occurred.

Interviews with graduates of institutions and children resident in institutions have shown children and young people are well able to speak about their lives in institutions.  Some NGOs have established mechanisms at LPA level through which young people are able to discuss major policies that impact on them and their peers such as the integration of children with disabilities into the community and normal school.  This suggests children could and should be participants in policy making at national level.

The experience of central and local government and NGOs working together within the framework of a national action plan must surely be a lesson applicable in other areas.



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