Strengthening the evidence base for child protection reforms across Europe

The DataCare Project is a joint initiative of Eurochild and UNICEF. Launched in March 2020, the final results will be published by September 2021.

The project will map alternative care data systems across the 27 Member States of the European Union (EU) and the UK. It will map the data collection and management system on children in alternative care in Europe. However, most importantly, it aims to support progress towards convergence in the type of data and the way that it is collected.

‘Deinstitutionalisation’ and reform of child protection has been on the EU agenda for several decades. Large sums of money from the EU Structural Funds have been spent on closing institutions and invested in prevention and quality alternatives. The COVID19 pandemic is likely to put many more children at risk due to rising poverty and insecurity, resulting in growing pressure on child protection systems. The EU has identified tackling child poverty as a priority for its next EU budget and EU Recovery Fund. It is designing a Child Guarantee initiative for launch in 2021.

For the EU to monitor how countries are using EU funds to reform their child protection systems, it is important to agree a set of indicators, populated by national data that are comparable across countries.  To achieve this, we need first to know how Member States are currently collecting, reporting, and using data. And how they define the different elements of their systems of care. Knowing this will clarify whether countries can provide data for key system-level performance indicators to monitor and evaluate the situation of children in alternative care in a comparable way.

The project comprises 3 components:

  1. The mapping of data systems aims to provide a comprehensive understanding of how Member States are currently collecting, reporting, and using child protection data, and what the collected data measure. It will identify ‘good practice’ examples of countries with strong data collection systems, as well as important trends and gaps - for example in the areas of public finance monitoring, digitalisation of records, and how data follows the individual.

  2. A comparative analysis of countries’ data collection systems will help to identify what parts of the alternative care system for children could be comparable across countries. This will better equip all relevant intergovernmental, governmental, and non-governmental stakeholders to track and compare trends in relation to entry into care (stock and flow), quality of care and leaving care.

  3. An accompanying advocacy strategy aims to track and influence the planned Council Recommendation for a European Child Guarantee to ensure it includes proposals to monitor progress in child protection reforms.