Falling through the cracks: critical review of the deinstitutionalisation process in a post-socialist state

Kārlis Lakševics, Artūrs Pokšāns and Kristians Zalāns - Scottish Journal of Residential Child Care


Throughout Eastern Europe, the attempts to carry out successful deinstitutionalisation (DI) have been hampered by the legacy of Soviet-era practices of care. In Latvia, it is present in the form of residential schools for children with special needs which continue to host a large proportion of children with disabilities. In order to monitor the progress that has been made since ratifying the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities a nationwide evaluation of accessibility of employment and education was carried out. Using the data from this work, we argue that due to the fragmented implementation of DI and lack of a child centred approach throughout the education sector, despite educators firmly believing they are acting in the best interests of children, current practices of care contribute to the creation of ‘inclusive exclusion’. Using the theoretical framework of Giorgio Agamben, we propose viewing the current approach to DI as one that sustains the exclusion of children with disabilities by increasingly marginalising children with severe disabilities by keeping them segregated in special forms of residential care. We show how this approach is primarily rooted in the specialist-based approach being seen as the most effective form of care for children with disabilities.