This report presents the findings from a study that aimed to explore the application in practice of the ‘necessity principle’ from the Guidelines on Alternative Care for Children (UN, 2009) by using three quantitative and three qualitative indicators that provide information about whether children and families have received support to the fullest extent possible before a child ends up outside of parental care arrangements in formal or informal care, or living alone.
The indicators assume that a child in the care of his or her own parents and family is more likely to be protected than outside of the family, but a child in parental care does not necessarily equate to a child receiving adequate care. These indicators are not trying to measure abuse, neglect or violence in the family. The wording ‘parental care arrangements’ was agreed with the project participants as a way of talking about the locus of a child’s care arrangements and with no implicit or explicit judgement intended in terms of the quality of care being provided. The six indicators are:
1. Rate of children outside of parental care arrangements per 100,000 child population and rate of children outside of kinship care per 100,000 child population
2. The level of coverage by preventative support services for children at risk of losing parental care and their families before they come to the attention of the child protection authorities.
3. The level of use by the child protection authorities of preventative family support services.
4. The degree to which the child is aware of his or her family history and reasons for being outside of the care of his or her parents or family.
5. Effectiveness of support services for children at risk of ending up outside of parental care arrangements and their families
6. Effectiveness of support services for children with disabilities and their families
An international team of practitioners and researchers from six organisations and 5 countries interviewed 611 children and 189 parents to gather data for the qualitative indicators. The main purpose of the report is to highlight areas where more could be done to support children and families and to prevent unnecessary loss of parental care arrangements. The report also aims to share information and knowledge between countries and to inform practitioners and researchers.