From practice to principles – Capitalising learning from 15 years of child protection development in Albania

Harris, Rachel and Milligan, Ian (2014) From practice to principles – Capitalising learning from 15 years of child protection development in Albania. In: European Scientific Association on Residential and Family Care for Children and Adolescents (EUSARF), 2014-09-02 - 2014-09-05.

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Countries in many parts of the world seek to improve their protection of children by developing a rights-based nation-wide system populated with local, culturally sensitive services. There is an impetus to move away from "disconnected projects towards a more systematic policy development and programming that considers the child and family in a more holistic fashion…" (UNICEF, 2011). Yet the challenges of implementing a system in countries with few resources and limited professional capacities are considerable. In the case of Albania, the legacy of communist rule and isolation from other countries means that systematic child protection and welfare started from a low base. There was an absence of personal social services and civil society organisations. Such child welfare provision as did exist was in the form of large children's homes, while foster-care was unknown. Over the last 15 years, Terre des hommes (Tdh) Mission in Albania has worked on a range of programmes to improve the welfare of children, through a focus on the development of community-based child care services, capacity-building and working in multiple partnerships with families, professionals, local and international NGOs and state actors. This abstract concerns a 'Capitalisation of Learning' Process undertaken for Tdh that sought to review the history of programme development in Albania, identify key achievements, and synthesise learning into principles and methods. The Capitalisation involved reviewing an extensive body of documents, as well as research from Albania on child-trafficking, transnational protection of children (Shuteriqi et al, 2006) and establishing Child Protection Units. Stakeholders engaged with the Capitalisation via interviews and focus groups in Albania, and a workshop with key Tdh staff in Budapest. An interactive timeline of key events in the development of the Albanian child protection system will be presented. We will also outline the working principles identified by the Capitalisation, namely: • 'Evolution' or being open to changing focus. • Valuing evidence (to convince children at risk, for accountability, and to inform practice and policy). • Commitment to partnership working. • Considering the whole system. • Remaining in touch with practice while thinking strategically.