November 2008, Reforming child care systems in the Central Asia and beyond
Kyrgyzstan, Bishkek, 5 November 2008 - Kyrgyzstan hosts a meeting of about 30 delegates from Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Turkey, Turkmenistan Tajikistan and Uzbekistan to share overviews of current child care situation in their countries and key priorities in the current reforms. The meeting is organized with the help of UNICEF and Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency.
The premier goal of the meeting is to prepare for the Consultation on Building and Reforming Child Care Systems in Central Asia which will take place in April 2009 in Bishkek.
High level regional experts and institutional partners - European Commission, World Bank, Asian Development Bank, international non-governmental organizations will be involved in the preparatory meeting and in the entire process to ensure broad based support to the consultation and its outcomes.
While all countries foreseen to take part in the consultation have engaged in reforming some aspects of their child care systems in collaboration with UNICEF and/or the World Bank, all of them are faced with new challenges and evolving formal care needs. The preparatory meeting participants will discuss various practices of building and reforming child care systems and share their analytical work and researches.
Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan have positive examples of new legislation, the establishment of Child Protection Department and the transformation of some residential institutions. In Kazakhstan, partnership with civil society is growing to ensure a greater diversity of alternative care options. In Turkmenistan, some champions of change are strengthening preventive family support. In Uzbekistan, coordination of early identification and referral of children with disabilities services is reinforced. In Azerbaijan, a State Program on De-institutionalization and Alternative Care was approved for the period 2006-2015. Key partnerships are being established to de-institutionalize children and preventive mechanisms are to be piloted in eight focus districts. In Turkey, experience could be shared on referral models and on the history of the unified national Child Protection Agency.
The participants will familiarize themselves with recent documentation produced by UNICEF and external assessments highlighting trends in governance and child care services. Despite official commitments to child care reform, there is a lack of reliable quality data on which to establish policy development and planning. New governance structures are being created, but there remains a split between local and central authorities and gate-keeping functions need to be reinforced at both levels. Monitoring and review of child care procedures and services are not systematically undertaken. Prevention and cash assistance are insufficient and poorly targeted. Institutionalisation of children without parental care and children with disabilities is still the norm. Foster care, patronage or other family type care are underdeveloped. Adoption procedures are not child rights based and domestic adoption is not supported. Individualised child and family support services and social work professions are emerging. Some financial issues are clear obstacles to effective reform: vested financial interests, lack of funding for transitional mechanisms and lack of budgetary capacity at local level. Some factors of vulnerability are pushing a growing number of children towards formal care: inequity, migration, disability, health hazards and various forms of violence
Discussion of these and other issues will create basis for a fruitful debate on child care reform at the April Consultation – 2009 with the end to identify positive steps and stumbling blocks in the reform and ways to address them, including through lessons learnt and good practice. In addition, these consultations constitute a forum for knowledge-sharing on child care reform. This process should both result in accelerating reform at country level and in re-focusing expertise and interventions in this field throughout the region.