As Ukraine works to deinstitutionalize children, Pact provides essential data tool
By Alyona Gerasimova
In Ukraine, more than 100,000 children are living in residential care institutions, but only 8 percent of those children are orphans. Children are placed in institutions for various reasons, including a lack of available community-based and social support services for families facing extreme poverty, high rates of unemployment, low access to day care, pre-schools, and school facilities in general, and a lack of inclusive education services, such as specialized services for children with disabilities. To make the situation worse, these institutions are housed under three separate ministries in Ukraine — the Ministry of Social Policy, the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Education and Science — creating a fragmented system with little to no coordination.
While this issue was overlooked for many years, Ukraine’s government has recently taken measures to prioritize the deinstitutionalization of children to place them back in family-based care. Most notably, the government has taken tangible steps to implement deinstitutionalization reform through the 2017 adoption of the National Strategy and Action Plan to Reform the Institutional Childcare System. The main goal of the plan is to transform the existing residential care system into a system that ensures the rights of children to be raised within a family environment.
This newfound political will presents a unique opportunity for the international community to help push forward deinstitutionalization in Ukraine. Recognizing this crucial time and understanding the importance of family care for a child’s well-being, Pact invested its own resources to contribute to the effort. The Children’s Ombudsman Office leads implementation of the reform, but the office has lacked tools for data analysis to effectively monitor progress. To tackle this issue, Pact partnered with the Children’s Ombudsman Office to develop a solution in the form of an electronic Monitoring and Information System to track the progress of deinstitutionalization reform. Leveraging our staff’s expertise in child protection, Pact’s Ukraine office has worked closely with the Ombudsman office over eight months to develop the PRO-MISE Portal and pilot it in Zhytomyr oblast. Olga Korolenko, our innovations officer, has taken a leading role in the initiative, with support from Olesia Galchynska, our capacity development and business acceleration officer, and Anna Fenchak, our measurement and evaluation officer.
The portal, which is now being rolled out in additional oblasts, provides relevant, quality data for decision-makers, user-friendly data visualization and real-time reporting for cases of child abuse in residential care institutions. It is the first of its kind in Ukraine’s child protection sector, and Pact is proud to have been able to provide it at a critical time in the reform process. We’ve also provided trainings to relevant users and developed an instruction manual to ensure effective administration of the portal by the Ombudsman office.
For me and the rest of Pact’s team, the project has been especially rewarding. We believe that every child deserves a loving family that makes them feel safe. We also know from experience that the effectiveness of programs and services, including those for at-risk families and children, depends a lot on having access to reliable data. We know impact can be maximized when we are all working collectively toward a shared goal. The PRO-MISE Portal is more than a data platform. By offering shared access to information, it also promotes collaboration and a collective approach, and it supports the development of a continuum of community-based services for vulnerable and at-risk families and children. With decentralization reform gaining momentum in Ukraine, the PRO-MISE Portal is a vital tool for regional and local governments, enabling them to assess and respond to the needs of children and families in their communities.
On Dec. 18, the portal was officially launched during a national-level event, which included representatives from the government and from local organizations working on child protection across the country and region. Pact’s Ukraine office had the opportunity to present the portal to national stakeholders, and officially handed over responsibility to the Children’s Ombudsman Office. Though the portal is theirs now, Pact will continue to check in to ensure it is being used consistently and as effectively as possible.
So far, it is working well.
“This platform is an effective instrument that allows us to monitor the implementation of deinstitutionalization reform and to ensure the quality of the reform implementation,” Nikolai Kuleba, Ukraine’s Children’s Ombudsman, recently told us. “We now have all data and resources in one place and have tools to analyze the data and assess the effectiveness of interventions. We are grateful to Pact for providing us with this resource that enables changes so needed to make the lives of little Ukrainians happy.”
Building off this success, Pact is now exploring opportunities to expand the portal to other countries in Eastern Europe to ensure that all children are growing up in permanent, supportive, family-based care.
Alyona Gerasimova is Pact’s country director in Ukraine.