Developing family-based care : complexities in implementing the UN guidelines for the alternative care of children

Davidson, Jennifer C. and Milligan, Ian and Quinn, Neil and Cantwell, Nigel and Elsley, Susan (2017) Developing family-based care : complexities in implementing the UN guidelines for the alternative care of children. European Journal of Social Work, 20 (5). pp. 754-769. ISSN 1468-2664 (

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In response to immense challenges facing children in out-of-home care in all parts of the world, there is a growing international trend towards the development of family-based placements for children in out-of-home care, away from large-scale institutions. This development of family based care within a range of care options is recommended within the international Guidelines for the Alternative Care of Children (the Guidelines), which were welcomed unanimously by the United Nations General Assembly in 2009. This paper offers an overview of these guidelines’ key principles, and considers the complexities that arise in efforts towards their implementation. Drawing on the literature, supported by research that informed Moving forward (the implementation handbook on the Guidelines) and illustrated by practice examples from across global regions, the authors examine three fundamental challenges in States’ efforts to implement the Guidelines’ ‘suitability’ principle, namely: de-institutionalising the care system; financing suitable family-based care and supporting the suitability of kinship care. The paper critically reflects on de-institutionalised systems and practices, and the cross-cultural assumptions about suitable foster and kinship care that emerge in efforts towards de-institutionalisation; it aims to spark new thinking on strategic ways in which alternative care is planned and delivered, to impact on future practice.


Davidson, Jennifer C. ORCID logoORCID:, Milligan, Ian ORCID logoORCID:, Quinn, Neil ORCID logoORCID:, Cantwell, Nigel and Elsley, Susan;