Home-Based Child Protection Consultant (32 working days between October 2022 and July 2023) - Regional Office for Europe and Central Asia (ECARO), Geneva, Switzerland
Application deadline 2 months ago: Friday 9 Sep 2022 at 21:55 UTCOpen application form
This is a Consultancy contract. More about Consultancy contracts.
UNICEF works in some of the world’s toughest places, to reach the world’s most disadvantaged children. To save their lives. To defend their rights. To help them fulfill their potential.
Across 190 countries and territories, we work for every child, everywhere, every day, to build a better world for everyone.
And we never give up.
For every child, Protection
Institutional care is widely understood by governments and civil society to be harmful for children. The Convention of the Rights of the Child, the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the UN Guidelines for the Alternative Care of Children all recognise that the ideal setting for a child to grow up in, and for persons with disabilities to fulfil their potential and participate as full citizens, is within a family environment that provides a nurturing and loving atmosphere, or, when necessary, within a community-based care system which is suitable to meet their individual needs. In addition to the human rights case, there is a strong economic case for choosing family- and community-based care over institutions. The cost of providing family- and community-based care is often less expensive, and the social return is much higher.
After decades of evidence-based advocacy and policy dialogue, many governments have led reforms to close or transform large-scale institutions and replace them with community and family based alternative care services and put in place family support services to prevent children from being unnecessarily separated from their families. The first waves of childcare reforms in the Europe and Central Asia (ECA) region were based on one simple, clear and evidence-based argument: children should never be ‘warehoused’ in large institutions. Children are best raised in families, and within communities. Throughout the countries in the Europe and Central Asia Region, significant progress has been made in terms of the development of new child and family services, although continued investment and momentum is required to ensure the reforms are completed and are irreversible and no child is left behind in any forms of institutional care.
After over 20 years of efforts to transition childcare systems from institutional to family and community-based care for children, foster care is still underdeveloped in many countries. Countries find difficult to define what foster care is and for what children it should be used and put appropriate systems, legislations, budgets and processes in place in order to allow for the childcare/ social services system to recruitment and maintain foster carers that could deliver services to children with various care and protection needs. The development of the professional foster care is a common challenge in the ECA region.
Across the world foster care, including supported kinship care, is an important part of the childcare system and a necessary service to develop in a childcare reform process. A comprehensive childcare system should always aim to provide family care for ALL children. All services developed as part of such a system should aim to strengthen families to care for their children, prevent unnecessary child-family separations, provide family-based care to children who are separated from their families and prioritize child reintegration and family reunification at any stage of a child’s journey in the care system. An over-reliance on residential care is often associated with poor universal services and a lack of family support services and other family- and community-based alternatives, in particular professional foster care services for children with complex and intense needs.
Societies increasingly realize that every child growing up needs and deserves the love, care and support of a family. For the children in foster care, it is no different, if not even more acute. Most of the children in care across countries with strong child protection systems, and most of those children who are in foster care in those systems, are there because they have suffered abuse or neglect. In addition, some of them are in care as a result of family dysfunction. Foster care as a service for the protection of children requires intensive support and monitoring.
Research has shown that children receive more effective care when placed in a supported, monitored family setting than when placed in residential care. For this reason, many countries in the Europe and Central Asia (ECA) region have worked to substantially reduce residential placements, opting to instead place high-needs children with professional foster carers. The evidence shows that family-based professional foster care is very effective. But this is true only when there is a right family – well prepared, and well supported – for each foster child and youth. Children and youth with adverse childhood experiences and trauma and/or long-term institutional history have very diverse and complex needs. Societies need professional foster carers who could meet the needs of these children and young people. And these foster caregivers need support services, and regular assistance to provide adequate care and protection.
The state of Foster Care has improved dramatically, especially over the past few decades in many parts of the World. Increasingly governments recognize that professional foster care is very important for the childcare system catering for children with complex needs or family circumstances and that they bare complex responsibilities to ensure that foster care is successfully developed as part of a comprehensive child care system, where foster care has a very specific and very important role to play. Foster care is no longer a destination but is instead a short to medium-term intervention leading to permanency for the child or young person either back into their biological family, with extended family members, or, if this is not possible, adoption into a new family. For older adolescents in foster care, it may be necessary to support their transition to independent living, which requires specialized services. In the ECA region and beyond significant number of new programs and resources have been developed to ensure foster youth can make a successful transition to independent living. Plus, the use of relatives or “kin” has increased dramatically – a very healthy alternative to the historical “stranger-care” paradigm.
The development of Foster Care in ECA Region is a common challenge. ECA region is steadily moving towards replacing residential care with family and community-based alternative care services. For this transition to happen in the best interest of children who are currently cared for in institutional care and for those at risk of losing parental care, few things should be prioritized by governments: putting in place a solid gatekeeping and family support system with a focus on prevention of unnecessary child-family separation and developing a professional foster care system. The lack of these two systems perpetuates the situation for children who are left behind in institutional care.
In order to effectively implement professional foster care, there is a need for a number of significant public policy changes. First, the government must specifically recognize the need for this role and develop appropriate legislation conducive to the development and institutionalization (and sustainability) of this service. Second, regulations have to be changed to allow a person to become a professional foster care without having existing, ongoing income. Professional foster carers need to be in most cases full-time, at-home carers caring for children with complex developmental needs – foster care, in short, must be treated as a profession. And finally, funds must be allocated to provide remuneration for their job needed to make professional foster carers fiscally viable.
Foster care are situations where children are placed, by a competent authority, in a family other than the children’s own that has been selected, qualified, approved and supervised for providing such care. Fostering now has many types of placements, to be able to cover for very different needs of children and their families and provide a coherent continuum of care and permanency in the child’s life: formal and in-formal kinship care, traditional foster care, professional foster care, specialised/therapeutic foster care, back-up foster families, short-brake/respite foster care, foster-to-adopt foster care, private foster care. Foster care placements may have various duration: emergency placements, short-term placements, long-term placements and foster families that transition to permanent placements.
The governments in ECA region must realise that the era of the big-hearted, benevolent, loving foster mom and dads, who would take care of just about anybody, is passing. While it is true that there is always a need for traditional foster carers – evidence shows that the real aunts, uncles, grandparents and extended family fill this role in many countries in the form of kinship care. Many of these kinship care arrangements can’t function without support. So supported kinship care (which implies assessment, training and support) must be an important part of an overall foster care strategy and approach. Traditional (voluntary) foster care in many countries of the region should be replaced with supported kinship care programmes. At the same time, there is a need to initiate the professionalization of foster care as an important steppingstone in ensuring family care for all children in need of out-of-home care. Now is the time to solidify the role of the professional foster carer, as the highly motivated, highly skilled, highly supported and compensated professional providing services on behalf of the statutory social services. Countries need committed and motivated professional foster carers to help foster children and youth heal and recover from the trauma they have experienced as a result of violence and separation, as well as to care for children with disabilities or with complex, including emotional needs; it is a process of time, patience and perseverance, but also really professional help. Foster carers need to be well assessed, trained and equipped to work with a variety of behaviors, needs and challenges. In essence, professional foster carer provides professional therapeutic help. Professional foster care is one of the most important, life-changing individuals with whom foster children and young people will interact.
To increase our understanding of the role of foster care in modern childcare and child protection systems and to further inform the UNICEF work with governments in the ECA region on reforming childcare and child protection systems, UNICEF will support a review of the use of the foster care in ECA region and in parts of the world where foster care has been developed for children who need care and protection outside their families. The research will consist of a desk review and key informant interviews, in-depth interviews and inputs from an External Reference Group of experts (ERG). The research will be designed with the active participation of key governments across the ECA region who express the willingness to learn and implement real changes in their childcare systems. These governments will be invited to join an active review and reflection group, where the concepts and reforms can be translated into their national contexts.
A desk review will compile existing secondary data on the use of different forms of foster care (including research, evaluations, government regulations and service standards), looking specifically at their role in the alternative child care system, as part of a continuum of child care services. Secondary sources of relevant data will include data collected by governments, as well as by major NGOs and private bodies supporting the development of foster care. The desk review will also scan existing literature and documents for evidence of government plans that aimed to develop foster care as part of Deinstitutionalization and childcare reforms.
Key informant interviews will inform the data collection process and will be carried out with members of the External Reference Group and beyond. In-depth interviews will be held with a number of stakeholders and with representatives of UNICEF country offices in the countries where the development of foster care is taking off successfully as well as in the countries where the development process stagnates and where there is resistance to put in place professional foster care schemes. Interviews with foster carers, kinship carers, children in care and young people who have left care.
The Partner Review and Reflection Group will be established to review the research findings and the content of this Guidance document.
Purpose of the Assignment
Under the supervision of the Child Protection Specialist, the consultant will provide technical support to UNICEF Europe and Central Asia Regional Office in developing a working paper on what constitutes a successful development of (professional) foster care as part of the childcare continuum of services.
Under this background, the paper aims to:
- examine the role of (professional) foster care in the continuum of childcare services in well-established societies and in the societies undertaking transition from institutional care family and community-based care;
- provide normative guidance on what constitutes a good quality foster care system, its role in the childcare and child protection system and the key elements for an effective provision of foster care services;
- identify strategies to boost the development of a diversified system for (professional) foster care in the ECA region, including the economic side of this development, drawing on good drawing as well on good examples of cost analysis.
The paper should provide answers to questions frequently asked by policy makers and practitioners:
- What is professional foster care? What are the differences between traditional/kinship and professional foster care? What are the common elements of professional foster care across countries with developed systems (i.e. remuneration and mechanisms to calculate the level of remuneration, access to pre-placement training, access to on-going training and support services, level of intensity and qualification and training requirements, employment status and taxation, respite and leave arrangements, etc.)?
- What a diversified foster care system looks like? What are forms of care used for children in need of out-of-home care? What forms of foster care can be used for prevention purposes? What are the things to consider by the authorities while designing the foster care legislation and developing practice (status of the foster care profession, financial compensation, recruitment, matching, performance management, training and professional supervision, reunification and failed reunification, birth family contacts and sibling separation, permanence, physical affection, etc.)? How to ensure financial resources are allocated for the development of foster carers? Where should these funds come from? How to ensure reallocation of funds from closing down institutions to foster care and gatekeeping prevention services?
- What are the effective strategies to recruit, motivate/maintain foster carers?
- What are elements of initial and on-going training for foster carers? What are the support services for professional foster carers? What is the system for professional supervision and performance management of professional foster carers?
- Who can be the providers of professional foster care (state, private sector, NGOs)? What licensing and inspection frameworks should be developed to ensure quality of foster care services?
Work Assignment Overview
Tasks / Milestone******Deliverables / Outputs******Timeline / DeadlineUndertake initial desk review and develop the zero draft of the paperZero draft completed6 working daysContribute to the creation of the External Reference Group: develop the ToR, provide recommendation on the membership and reach out to potential organizations and individualsGroundwork for establishment of the External Reference Group completed2 working daysPresent the zero draft to the External Reference group and identify areas for further deep dives into the issue to validate the direction of the development of the paper and inform further primary researchZero draft presented to the External Reference Group1 working dayUndertake a deep dive of the issue, undertaking additional (if-needed) desk review and primary data collection with the members of the External Reference Group and other experts)Key informant interviews with members of the Partner Review and Reflection Group to inform the deep dives4 working days In-depth interviews4 working daysDevelop the first full draft of the working paper which also contains findings, conclusions and recommendationsFirst draft report13 working daysConsult the first draft of the paper with the Partner Review and Reflection Group and develop the final version of the paperFinal report2 working daysEstimated Duration of the Contract
32 working days (between October 2022 and July 2023)
Consultant’s Work Place and Official Travel
The Consultant will be home-based.
Estimated Cost of the Consultancy & Payment Schedule
Payment will be made on submission of an invoice and satisfactory completion of the above-mentioned deliverables. Please indicate a daily fee based on 32 working days to undertake this assignment.
To qualify as an advocate for every child you will have…
- Master's degree in Education, Sociology, Social Work or another relevant field;
- Minimum 10 years of progressively responsible professional work experience in child protection, child protection system strengthening and in particular childcare reform, and inclusive education at the national or international levels;
- Knowledge of childcare and education reforms processes;
- Knowledge of the ECA region;
- Excellent analytical and written skills;
- Experience in conducting research;
- Fluency in English (oral and written).
For every Child, you demonstrate…
UNICEF’s core values of Care, Respect, Integrity, Trust, and Accountability (CRITA), and core competencies in Communication, Working with People and Drive for Results.
View our competency framework at http://www.unicef.org/about/employ/files/UNICEF_Competencies.pdf
UNICEF is committed to diversity and inclusion within its workforce, and encourages all candidates, irrespective of gender, nationality, religious and ethnic backgrounds, including persons living with disabilities, to apply to become a part of the organization.
UNICEF has a zero-tolerance policy on conduct that is incompatible with the aims and objectives of the United Nations and UNICEF, including sexual exploitation and abuse, sexual harassment, abuse of authority and discrimination. UNICEF also adheres to strict child safeguarding principles. All selected candidates will, therefore, undergo rigorous reference and background checks, and will be expected to adhere to these standards and principles.
Please include a full CV and Financial Proposal in your application by indicating your availability and daily rate (in US$) to undertake the terms of reference above. Applications submitted without a daily rate will not be considered. Only shortlisted candidates will be contacted and advance to the next stage of the selection process.
Individuals engaged under a consultancy or individual contract will not be considered “staff members” under the Staff Regulations and Rules of the United Nations and UNICEF’s policies and procedures and will not be entitled to benefits provided therein (such as leave entitlements and medical insurance coverage). Their conditions of service will be governed by their contract and the General Conditions of Contracts for the Services of Consultants and Individual Contractors. Consultants and individual contractors are responsible for determining their tax liabilities and for the payment of any taxes and/or duties, in accordance with local or other applicable laws.
The selected candidate is solely responsible to ensure that the visa (applicable) and health insurance required to perform the duties of the contract are valid for the entire period of the contract. Selected candidates are subject to confirmation of fully-vaccinated status against SARS-CoV-2 (Covid-19) with a World Health Organization (WHO)-endorsed vaccine, which must be met prior to taking up the assignment. It does not apply to consultants who will work remotely and are not expected to work on or visit UNICEF premises, programme delivery locations or directly interact with communities UNICEF works with, nor to travel to perform functions for UNICEF for the duration of their consultancy contracts.
UNICEF offers reasonable accommodation for consultants with disabilities. This may include, for example, accessible software, travel assistance for missions or personal attendants. We encourage you to disclose your disability during your application in case you need reasonable accommodation during the selection process and afterwards in your assignment.