Global deinstitutionalisation policy in the post-Soviet space: A comparison of child-welfare reforms in Russia and Kazakhstan

Sofia An & Meri Kulmala - Global Social Policy


This article compares how the global policy of deinstitutionalisation (DI) of child welfare travelled, was translated and institutionalised in two post-Soviet countries – Russia and Kazakhstan. These countries share a Soviet legacy of child-welfare systems dominated by residential care and have recently introduced similar DI reforms based on the global child rights framework. However, despite similar institutional legacies and post-Soviet conditions, the DI reforms have produced different outcomes in terms of the scope and pace of the institutionalisation of DI policy. In Russia, the DI of child welfare has been a fast-moving and sweeping reform, while in Kazakhstan, the implementation of DI has been an incremental and gradual process. We argue that the institutionalisation of the DI policy in two post-Soviet contexts was an outcome of the interplay between structural factors and the agency of policy actors who translated global DI ideology into domestic policy discourses. Yet, they were ‘sold’ with quite different discursive frames – one nationalist, another one trans-nationalist – in these two countries. We claim that the geopolitical position of a country is also a significant factor for framing and thus, in the end, in how child-welfare systems have been reformed.