An International Database and eJournal for Outcome-Evaluation and Research


Quality 4 Children


Background. For a number of reasons, hundreds of thousands of children in Europe are unable to grow up with their biological families, leading, after official intervention, to them being placed into out-of-home care. A number of different care systems are offered to these children. However, an inadequate care environment can hinder this development and leave these vulnerable children at risk of further violations of their fundamental rights.

In the European context, the international childcare organizations, FICE, IFCO and SOS Children's Villages, based on their own experiences, identified a considerable need for developing quality standards. In a Europe mainly focusing on economic growth, pan-European initiatives are also strongly required to cope with social challenges. WHO and UNICEF have also proclaimed the need for developing quality standards

Against this background, these three international organizations launched a project in March 2004, aimed at ensuring and improving children's development chances in out-of-home child care in Europe: Quality4Children.


The context. The mission of Qualiy4Children is to improve the situation and development chances of children in out-of-home care, by means of the following objectives:

-        Creating a European network of stakeholders advocating children's rights in out-of-home care.

-        Developing European quality standards based on the experiences and good practices of the people directly concerned.


Advocating for the adoption of quality standards for children in out-of-home care at national and European level, and promoting the Q4C Standards and their approach and philosophy at national, European and global level.


Purpose. Quality4Children had a research phase. It's scientific question was only used as an impulse to generate a narration of the interviewees. This question was: "What do you think has proven most important since the child left home for out-of-home care?"

It was used a mixed method: The method for the data collection and data analysis are qualitative. A matrix was filled with the analysis results. From that point on, the results were quantified.


Design. The objective of Q4C was to collect stories of good practice in the participating countries, analyze them and subsequently develop this information into quality standards. The research items were stories of good practices from parties who have experienced out-of-home childcare. Project phases:

-        Planning

-        Workshops on data collection method

-        Data collection and data validation (control of the storytellers upon their own stories)

-        Data analysis

-        Elaboration of a research report

-        Development of quality standards using the result of the research (report)

-        Validation of the quality standards by the "storytellers" (interviewees)

-        Finalization of the Quality4Children standards


Sample. In the framework of Q4C a total of 332 stories from 26 countries in Europe (Austria, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, North Cyprus, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and Turkey) were collected and analyzed. 49% of the stories were from children and young adults who have experienced out-of-home care; 11.5 % from biological parents; 32% from caregivers and 7.5% were from others (social workers, lawyers, etc.).

Method of data collection

"Storytelling" was used as the method for collecting the information, storytelling ensured the direct participation of the interviewees in creating the basis for the Q4C Standards. Storytelling is a qualitative method for the collection of narrations about one's experiences within an organizational setting. It is applied for filtering out and documenting the background of significant events.


Key findings. Qualitative findings: The aim of the project was not to elaborate a report with the research results, but to use this information as a starting point for developing quality standards. However here are some of the topics of interest of the storytellers (narrators) in their narrations:

-        Communication and participation

-        Intervention from Child Protection Services

-        Care

-        Structure, rules, setting limits, recognizing and accepting boundaries

-        Relationships and affections

-        Leaving care

The findings can be useful for new cross-national researches and they represents a challenge for European practices and policies. The output of Quality4Children was set of 18 standards. This standards can be downloaded at www.quality4children.info.


Decision-making and admission: 6 Standards

Standard 1: The child and his/her family of origin receive support during the decision-making process

Standard 2: The child is empowered to participate in the decision-making process.

Standard 3: A professional decision-making process ensures the best possible care for the child

Standard 4: Siblings are cared for together

Standard 5: The transition to the new home is well prepared and sensitively implemented

Standard 6: The out-of-home care process is guided by an individual care plan

Care-taking: 8 Standards

Standard 7: The child's placement matches his/her needs, life situation and original social environment

Standard 8: The child maintains contact with his/her family of origin

Standard 9: Caregivers are qualified and have adequate working conditions

 Standard 10: The caregiver's relationship with the child is based on understanding and respect

Standard 11: The child is empowered to actively participate in making decisions that directly affect his/her life

Standard 12: The child is cared for in appropriate living conditions

Standard 13: Children with special needs receive appropriate care

Standard 14: The child/young adult is continuously prepared for independent living

Leaving-care: 4 Standards

Standard 15: The leaving-care process is thoroughly planned and implemented

Standard 16: Communication in the leaving-care process is conducted in a useful and appropriate manner

Standard 17: The child/young adult is empowered to participate in the leaving-care process

Standard 18: Follow-up, continuous support and opportunity for contact are ensured


Key references

Bosisio, R. (2006).  Il percorso dell'infanzia nel mondo dei diritti, in Mazzucchelli, F. (a cura di), Viaggio attraverso i diritti dell'infanzia e dell'adolescenza, Milano, Franco Angeli.

Hart, Roger A. (1997). Children's participation; Earthscan/UNICEF.

Reinmann-Rothmmeier, Gabi; Erlach, Christine; Neubauer, Andrea (2000). Erfahrungsgeschichten durch Story Telling - eine multifunktionale Wissens management-Methode; Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität, München.


Contacts: Samantha Tedesco, SOS Italia Villaggi dei bambini ONLUS, SOS Kinderdorf International, SOS Villaggi dei Bambini Onlus, Corso III novembre, 112 38100 Trento, E-mail: samantha.tedesco@sositalia.it; info@sositalia.it, Phone 02 67732131 - 0461 926262.


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