What does de-institutionalisation actually mean?

Finishing the second round of our tour in Crete with the SOS Children’s Villages, the objectives are breaking down in front of us. There are well meaning principles of getting ‘all’ children out of institutions, but these are fraught with difficulties and risks – notwithstanding the parallel development of alternative care (kinship, fostering and adoption), which require planning, investment and support systems in place.

Talking to some inspiring residential caregivers, there is a lot more we need to do: improve child-centred environments and practices, enhance nurturing and quality of care, equip caregivers, open care homes to society, bring services in, exhaust opportunities for children’s reintegration, and improve criteria and pathways to future admissions when these cannot be avoided.

New WACIT paper: It takes more than training to make impact

I recently shared my shock on the conditions of a ‘European’ children’s home. It became clear from that visit that training was not enough, but rather needed a co-ordinated approach, with service transformation and key managers on board.

Here is relevant evidence on professionals’ experience on similar barriers to implementing what they had learnt from their interdisciplinary child protection training in Saudi Arabia. Essentially, training needs to be accompanied by co-ordinated awareness programmes to change attitudes and beliefs, and organizational changes to support practitioners in their everyday work:








Young generation carrying on Prof Thabet’s legacy

Do we believe in coincidences? Only two days after Abdel Aziz’s untimely loss, this pre-planned student event by Amnesty International and the Palestinian Society could not be more fitting.

“I would not be here without the work of this great man. He drove it, I merely helped to publish it. And we would have little evidence to discuss.”

Such as this article in the Lancet, one of his finest moments:


The article stirred a heated debate at the time, with political distortions, but ultimately opened up a new field of research on how children process and report trauma.

Knowing Abdel Aziz, nothing would have given him more pleasure than young people taking over the baton. This is the only way.

Abdel Aziz Thabet: Mourning for a great friend and research innovator

fileI am still hoping for his usual cheeky response that it’s all a mistake. Only a few weeks ago I left him in high spirits, and great energy to combine and analyse his lifelong datasets on his way to Toronto. Last week he sent me the first photos of snow away from his beloved Gaza.

It is impossible to go beyond the human loss at the moment. Over time we can celebrate his huge influence on the child trauma field. Little did we know when he published his first classic paper on how children processed war trauma:


And little did I know of the huge privilege of attending his final lecture last month in Jordan. Missing you a lot my dear friend, may you rest in peace. đŸ˜¢

De-institutionalisation Greek Tour 2: All voices matter, with one being central

Moving north. We had to challenge before the notion of specialists being more important in formulating care plans in children’s homes. Caregivers know children the best, but also administrators, drivers and domestics, who see behaviours hidden from the therapy room, or who the children may confide to.

They all need to contribute but also sing from the same hymn sheet to implement the care plan. What we are really bringing in though is involving the child in decisions that affect their lives. There are many ways of doing it sensitively whilst effectively.

Back on tour in Greece deinstitutionalisation project

Six months have flied in following the training thread with the development of holistic individualised plan for young people in care homes in the South.

Sounds obvious and easy on paper, but the devil is in the detail – with many organisational barriers along the way. Most care homes in the world have individual goals, but these are often not integrated, monitored, documented, or communicated internally and externally.

Working on a tool developed by Thanasis and the SOS Villages was a real treat!