Residential care centers during the Covid-19 Pandemic: A survey of 13 countries – members of FICE-I
Residential care centers during the Covid-19 Pandemic:
A survey of 13 countries – members of FICE-International
Emmanuel Grupper*, Shachar Shuman**
Out-of-home care, especially treatment residential care programs (TRC) are often described in the media, and even in some professional studies, as obsolete social structures (Consensus Statement, 2014). Residential care settings are out-of-home facilities such as educational youth villages and educational, therapeutic, or rehabilitation residential treatment centers (Grupper, 2013). Their aim is to provide education, treatment, rehabilitation or protection for children and youth, including those at risk and others, to protect these young people and work toward making a positive change, one that would allow them successfully reintegrate into the community (Aharoni, 2018). Therapeutic residential care is "A structured, multidimensional living environment designed to promote or provide care, education, socialization and protection for children and youth with identified mental health or behavioral needs. The boarding school will be in partnership with families and in collaboration with a wide range of formal and informal professional factors” (Whittaker et al., 2016). Out-of-home care includes such settings and arrangements as foster care, group homes, various models of family group-home living together with biological family of staff (Assouline & Attar-Schwartz, 2020).
Deinstitutionalization began in Europe after the 1989 Declaration on the Rights of the Child and was followed by the 2009 UN guidelines for alternative care (United Nations, 1989, 2009). The move resulted in the closing down of many large residential care facilities, reforming the system to smaller family-type institutions, at the same time building greater negative stigma against any kind of institutional care (Eurochild, 2016). However, residential care facilities and their staff members, may remember the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic as “their finest hour.”
The lockdowns declared by many governments created a situation where caregivers and children were locked together in the residential facilities, and had to make the most of this great challenge that was imposed upon them.
FICE Israel decided to initiate a short survey to document and share information about the way different countries handled their policies and practices in residential care facilities during that period. As of this writing (June 2020), 13 countries have responded. Following are findings and some conclusions from this primary survey.
The information gathered in this survey
We decided on three categories – general information on the lockdown, policies, and residential-care stuff functioning. Table 1 provides general information about level of lockdown in each country, data available and policy regarding children in out of home care. Notably, while policies in many countries were quite similar, there were also variations like "intelligent lockdown" in the Netherlands and night curfew in Kenya. The dates vary from one country to another, but in each country, when the decisions were made, the policy regarding children in residential care was quite similar. Welfare residential- care centers were supposed to remain open and give full services to the children. However, only on-site services were provided; even therapy that necessitated leaving the facility, had to be stopped. Because schools were closed, residential care staff was in charge of the children during what were normally school hours, when they were with their teachers. This increased their workload and responsibilities. Much to our surprise, we found no data is available, in all 13 countries, about number of cases of infected children or staff members in these treatment residential care centers.
*Prof. Emmanuel Grupper is Deputy Dean of Humanities at the Ono Academic College, Israel and President of FICE-International, email@example.com
**Shachar Schuman, is Managing Director of the Israeli Association for Welfare Residential Centers, firstname.lastname@example.org