By: Beth Bradford, Changing the Way We Care Technical Director, Maestral and Erica Dahl-Bredine, Changing the Way We Care Influence, Learning, and Engagement Director, CRS

Efforts to promote family care of children and reduce the reliance of national children’s care systems on residential institutions depend heavily on public systems and therefore public finance. National care reform is increasingly on the agenda in many countries, but has been threatened recently by the COVID-19 pandemic, as government priorities and budgets shift toward pandemic prevention and response. Furthermore, due to the pandemic, most countries are experiencing reduced economic activity and government revenues and have increased deficit spending. In this environment, it is challenging to predict the future of foreign assistance funding and how it will be directed.

Now, precisely because of the Covid-19 pandemic and rising levels of vulnerability, it is paramount that child protection and care systems and services be funded and expanded to ensure the safety and wellbeing of children. In order to scale up the capacity of national family care and social protection systems, adequate levels of public investment must be re-directed to the systems and services which are critical to such systems.

In response, Changing the Way We Care* is publishing new guidance entitled “Public Expenditure and Children’s Care,” designed to strengthen the capacity of government agencies in low resource settings to prepare a sound budgetary framework for policies, programs and services that aim to keep children in safe and nurturing family environments. The guidance is primarily for the government body that would lead on child protection. To be successful in increasing public budget that body must be able to make the investment case to a broader set of government sectors such as finance ministry, social protection, health, education, justice, etc. As such, the guidance further outlines a methodology for making the investment case to the broader government, development partners and external donors for a family-focused care and child and social protection system.

The Public Expenditure and Children’s Care guidance highlights the critical components of strategic national care reform which must be budgeted for, presented in four key inter-related areas: 1) Strengthening policy development, monitoring and evaluation; 2) Strengthening the social service workforce for childcare; 3) Improving the access to and quality of programs and services; and 4) Changing norms, attitudes, and practices regarding the institutionalization of children.

The primary audience for this guidance is public officials and those that support their work, especially those responsible for policy and budgeting in the social and justice sectors with the mandate to improve the care and protection of children in their countries. It is also designed to be accessible to those organizations working with governments to develop and implement policies to improve the care of vulnerable children and to encourage involvement of children, youth, parents and other caregivers in the processes.

*Changing the Way We Care promotes safe, nurturing family care for children reintegrating from residential institutions and prevents child-family separation by strengthening families, reforming national systems of care for children, and working with others to shift commitments and conversations in support of family care.

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