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Understanding the impact of EU policies on the deinstitutionalization of child care in non-EU Eastern European countries

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - EUCHILD (Understanding the impact of EU policies on the deinstitutionalization of child care in non-EU Eastern European countries)

Reporting period: 2018-09-01 to 2020-08-31

At least 8 million children live in institutional care (children’s homes or orphanages) around the world. There is scientific evidence that child institutionalization is detrimental to child’s development and highly negatively effects the child’s future. The policy of childcare deinstitutionalization (hereafter DI) concerns children without parental care. It aims to ensure that every child grows up in a family or in a family-like environment. The deinstitutionalization of childcare is a globally recognized best practice, and a global movement, supported by the United Nations, the European Commission, and many other international players. However, the cross-national progress has been highly uneven. Even more surprising is the pattern in which countries have been adopting DI policy. For example, poor, conflict-ridden and authoritarian countries were among early DI adopters, while some rich Western European countries have fallen behind. Strikingly, while the European Union and various international actors have been actively investing in DI policy promotion, our knowledge about DI policy adoption across countries has been rather patchy to-date. This gap was addressed by this project. I asked three broad questions: Which countries have adopted the policy of childcare deinstitutionalization? When did they do so? What factors can help explain the emerging pattern of policy adoption? In particular, what role did the European Union play?
The new data and analysis help understand the drivers behind the uneven global progress towards child wellbeing, as well as the roles of national and international actors in ensuring children's rights.
"The focus was particularly on DI policy adoption in Eastern European and Central Asian countries, which previously were republics of the Soviet Union. However, as the project unfolded and the first results were rather unexpected, the scope of the project was extended, so eventually the analysis was carried out on all fifteen ex-Soviet states, and some analysis even included all world countries.
The project had several objectives. The first objective was to create a unique dataset about DI policy adoption across several countries (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Belarus, Moldova, Ukraine, and Russia). The second objective was to conduct statistical analysis, in order to understand the role of various factors in the cross-national variation in DI policy adoption. The third objective was to carry out a more in-depth, qualitative analysis of ‘successful’ DI cases, in order to understand how progress was achieved and what combinations of factors were key to the success of the reforms. To achieve these objectives, the following steps were taken: (1) cross-national policy data collection; (2) statistical analysis; (2) in-depth qualitative analysis, aimed at understanding the key drivers of national reforms, and the role played by international factors, such as the European Union.
Several articles have been published or are currently under review, such as:
• Ulybina O. The De-institutionalization of Childcare: A Global Social Policy. Under review
This article presents new data on the adoption of deinstitutionalization policy by 193 countries. The new data and analysis show the global pattern of DI policy adoption, helping us understand how public policies spread around the globe. A global map of childcare deinstitutionalization policies was produced.

• Ulybina O. When nothing really matters? Explaining the cross-national pattern of policy shift towards childcare deinstitutionalization. Under review
In this paper, I present statistical analysis, which helps understand why some countries adopted deinstitutionalization policies much earlier than other countries. For this, I collected new data on the time of DI policy adoption by 15 ex-Soviet countries in Eastern Europe and Central Asia. The study is highly important, as it helps understand the drivers behind the uneven global progress towards the elimination of orphanages.

• Ulybina O. Policy instrument choice under globalization: Do authoritarian states choose differently? Under review
Countries can choose different policy means (policy instruments) to achieve the same policy ends. Hypothetically, governments could introduce a variety of measures to reduce child institutionalization: tax or criminalize child abandonment, close institutions and tax/oblige members of the extended family to take care of the child; encourage local churches to provide alternative care, etc. One can hypothesize that governments will choose those, more or less coercive, options which better suit the national political culture. So, in this study, I asked Do authoritarian countries differ from non-authoritarian countries in the choice of their DI instruments? To answer this question, I collected and analysed new data on childcare deinstitutionalization policies in 15 ex-Soviet countries in Eastern Europe and Central Asia. The findings help understand how policy choices vary across authoritarian and non-authoritarian states.

• Ulybina O. (2020, open access) Transnational agency and domestic policies: The case of childcare deinstitutionalization in Georgia. Global Social Policy.
This paper is about deinstitutionalization of childcare in Georgia, which is widely regarded to be one of few success stories. In this study, I analysed national policy documents, reports of UN agencies, the European Union, USAID, and NGOs that contributed to the evolution of childcare deinstitutionalization in Georgia. I traced several developments: evolution of Georgian domestic policy versus the changing role of childcare deinstitutionalization in activities of various transnational actors, including the European Union. I found that Georgian childcare was shifting towards deinstitutionalization at the same time as global policy actors were developing their interventions in this policy area. The study highlights that national policy-makers are far from being passive adopters of international policies. It also shows how a lower middle-income country can develop advanced social policies in conditions when global actors have not agreed on this policy and have not made it a major part of their external policies yet.

Several further manuscripts are being prepared, including:
• Ulybina, O. Policy Diffusion through Interests and Ideas: Towards an integrative framework. Manuscript submitted
• Ulybina, O. Global Diffusion of Social Policies: Expected Utility and Political Will for Reform. Manuscript submitted.
• ""Westward Ho? Disability and Inclusion in Georgia and Ukraine"", for a Special Issue of Europe-Asia Studies titled “Modernizing Welfare in Russia and Other Post-Soviet States: De-institutionalization, Integration, and Agency”
The results of this research have been incorporated into university teaching materials, as well as presented at multiple international conferences."
The results illuminate global progress in child protection, and are of high practical importance. By revealing the cross-national progress towards childcare deinstitutionalization, the research helps ensure child development, equal prospects for well-being and human rights. The findings provide crucial evidence to inform decision-making of international organizations, help target aid, development support and diplomatic efforts.