Deinstitutionalization in Georgia
As a result of change of Government in January 2004 and advocacy campaign carried out by EU and other international agencies, reform of childcare system has been included in government’s top priorities. Deinstitutionalisation and establishment of alternative childcare services are today key social sector priorities for both Ministry of Education and Science of Georgia and Ministry of Labour, Health and Social Affairs of Georgia. The process of deinstitutionalization in the country began within the limits of childcare system reform. Therefore, people with disabilities are not at this stage included in the process.
In April 2005, within the limits of Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Programme of the European Union and pursuant to Article 4 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Government of Georgia adopted a resolution (Government Resolution #75, April 21, 2005) concerning Government’s Action Plan on Child Protection and Deinstitutionalization, Government Commission of Child Protection and Deinstitutionalization and Statute of the Commission.
The Action Plan envisions, inter alia, the following:
- Review of legislation regulating childcare system, adoption of appropriate changes and amendments;
- Rationalization and optimization of childcare institutions’ network;
- Defining a unified public body which shall have responsibilities and functions of various governmental bodies currently working on childcare issues;
- Establishment of registration system of children with disabilities and their families;
- Social inclusion of children from marginal groups;
- Raising public awareness of childcare issues.
Further, the Government resolution established Government Commission of Child Protection and Deinstitutionalization, principal functions of which are ensuring efficient implementation of Government Action Plan on Child Protection and Deinstitutionalization and submission of respective proposals and recommendations to the Government. Members of the Commission include Minister of Science and Education of Georgia, Minister of Finance of Georgia and Minister of Labour, Health and Social Affairs of Georgia.
The Commission elaborated childcare standards, which were adopted by Minister of Labour, Health and Social Security and Minister of Education and Science of Georgia in 2007 (A Joint Order of Minister of Labour, Health and Social Affairs of Georgia and Minister of Education and Science of Georgia #42-16/N, January 18, 2007) The childcare standards shall enter into force on January 1, 2008. Until the date of entry into force, the standards shall have recommendatory power. The Order recommends childcare institutions and other interested persons to ensure that their activities meet the standards enshrined in therein until the date of entry into force.
Since 2001, The Ministry of Education and Science of Georgia has been implementing a Programme for Prevention of Child Abandonment and for Deinstitutionalisation of Children under State Care or Deprived of Parental Care. The main goal of the Programme is to fulfill the right of the child to grow up with his/her family. To achieve this goal, the Programme aims at:
- Prevention of inflow of children into childcare institutions and child abandonment;
- Reintegration of children currently in residential institutions into biological families;
- Foster arrangements for children in need of short or long-term care in foster families.
Within the limits of the Programme, Ministry of Education and Science works on optimization of childcare institutions. The process implies in-depth analysis of each institution, elaboration of individual plan for optimization of each institution in accordance with needs of local children and community, alteration of profiles and structure of the institution to create a responsive alternative to existing childcare services.
Although processes of deinstitutionalization have started, there are still obstacles that need to be overcome for the process to complete successfully. Most significant challenge the Government faces at this stage is formulation of long-term policy of deinstitutionalization process in Georgia. The Government is sometimes moving too fast in the direction of closing down childcare institutions, before a continuum of services has been established and alternative community based institutions are available. The process cannot be successfully completed without simultaneous emergence and development of alternative community-based services corresponding to international standards for the development of alternative services is an integral part of deinstitutionalization process.
The need of developing alternative community-based services is therefore evident. The efforts of central and local government should be directed at establishing diversified childcare services at central and regional levels. Despite the fact that civil society organizations operating in Georgia possess potential to develop and provide childcare services, these organizations are not sufficiently involved in the process. In this connection, effective cooperation between socially oriented welfare organizations and Government shall significantly contribute to and accelerate the process of establishment of quality childcare services’ infrastructure corresponding to modern standards.
The Project: “Creating Enabling Environment for Welfare Organizations in Georgia”initiated by Civil Society Institute (CSI)aims to respond to this need. The project views socially oriented not-for-profit organizations operating in Georgia as potential social service providers. The project aims at creating a flexible legal and operational environment to enable socially oriented organizations to cooperate with Government, gradually replacing or efficiently complementing it in social services’ delivery.