Across Europe hundreds of thousands of children are growing up in institutional care where their physical, cognitive and emotional development is severely damaged.


These children are stigmatised, isolated and discouraged from maintaining or reconnecting with their families and communities. Siblings are separated on the basis of disability, gender and age and the most vulnerable children – those with disabilities or from minority ethnic groups – are disproportionately represented to an alarming degree.

The consequences are devastating for children, destroy families and deliver a heavy cost to society in the long term.

All of this can be prevented if the right services are in place to support vulnerable families and provide quality alternative family-based care for children.

Our opportunity

The conditions are in place across Europe to achieve sustainable change and end institutional care of children once and for all.

In 2013, the European Commission issued policy documents such as the Recommendation ‘Investing in Children – Breaking the cycle of disadvantage’, which clearly calls on Member States to put a halt to the expansion of institutions for children and invest in quality care instead, making the transition from institutional to family and community-based care for children.

Meanwhile, billions of euros are allocated through EU Structural Funds and pre-accession and neighbourhood policies. With political commitment and EU and national level, funds can be made available to finance the transition at national level.

The message is clear – institutional care for children has no place in Europe. Concerted political will to implement this policy guidance and use EU funding has the potential to transform the lives of hundreds of thousands of children.


The Opening Doors campaign operates at EU level and in 12 countries across Europe.

Working with a network of national partners in each participating country, we are building civil society capacity to advocate at national level. Through this campaign, we are connecting over eighty organisations across Europe with decision makers in Brussels to ensure we seize the opportunity to end institutional care once and for all..

We are calling on the EU and national governments to prioritise the transition from institutional to family-based care and deliver quality care for children across Member States, pre-accession countries and within the EU neighbourhood. 

We believe that the end of institutional care for children in Europe is possible and within our reach – putting the best interests of children back at the heart of Europe’s child protection systems.


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