Changing mind-sets and Pioneering family social work in Tajikistan: An evaluation of a pilot fostering project and its relation to wider family support services

Dr. Ian Milligan - CELCIS/HealthProm

I. Purpose of the report

The Keeping and Finding Families Project

The purpose of the report is to provide an initial evaluation of the process of setting up a pilot fostering project in Tajikistan. The EU-funded and commissioned project was initiated and led by HealthProm, supported and match-funded by UNICEF, working with local NGO partners and Government departments. Fostering (by strangers as opposed to kin) is virtually unknown in Tajikistan1 . Likewise state-funded community social services are at a very early stage of development and the subject of technical support programmes from the EU. The fostering programme is part of a larger 3-year project (2012-2015) developing a range of ’early years’, social services for families with babies and disabled children, called the Keeping and Finding Families project: Inclusive social services for young children in Tajikistan.

The project has been developed in two sites, in the two largest cities in Tajikistan; Dushanbe (the capital) and Khujand. The two local NGOs who run the project have their own offices and staff in the grounds of the Baby Homes in these cities. They work directly with parents in crisis who have approached the Baby Homes for help and are thinking about placing their child in it. They also work with Directors and staff to improve the quality of care in the homes, while developing alternative care options including; family support, respite care for children with disabilities and fostering. The two local NGOs are; HDO (Hayaot Dar Oila) in Dushanbe, and Sarchasma (Social Legal Centre) in Khujand. They actually run the services, including the fostering pilot, with guidance and support from UNICEF and HealthProm, the project leader.

It built upon previous work in this area which HealthProm and its local partners and associates have been carrying out since 2008. Work to develop the pilot fostering service began in 2013. The fostering pilot was intended to include 10 foster families; 5 in Dushanbe and 5 in Khujand. However due to delays in getting approval from central and local government officials for each stage of the fostering initiative, actual placements only started in July 2015. Therefore at the point of evaluation in December 2015, the children had only been in placement for a few weeks or months. This report will therefore provide a process evaluation of the setting up of the fostering service, including the views of foster parents. It will also describe the evolution of the family support and ’prevention’ services (services which aim to prevent the separation of children from their biological families while protecting them from harm) of which the fostering forms a part.