This month NI-CO played host to a small delegation of leading officials from the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare in Montenegro. The group was comprised of the Head of Directorate for Social Welfare and Child Protection, Budimirka Đukanović, the Senior Advisor for Child Protection, Svetlana Sovilj, and Marija Baković, Senior Advisor. The purpose behind the visit was to aid in the process of expanding the child foster care system in Montenegro, with the eventual aim of encouraging de-institutionalisation.

During their visit, NI-CO’s Montenegrin guests met with various Northern Irish organisations, including the Department of Health NI, the South Eastern Health and Social Services Trust, the Health and Social Care Board and the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust. As well as being introduced to NI’s foster care system, the delegation were able to benefit from NI’s expertise in relation to the successful implementation of EU directives and institutional frameworks in this sector.

Discussions were also held concerning the development of foster care as a less restrictive form of child protection, with a particular focus on the importance of implementing de-institutionalisation throughout Montenegro.

A visit from the Northern Health and Social Services Trust also afforded our guests the opportunity to gather information about alternative forms of foster care which have yet to be developed in Montenegro, such as the Kinship fostering practice (the system of fostering by family members). A trip to the Fostering Network further facilitated the sharing of information and experience concerning the role of NGOs in providing support for fostering and child protection services.

Our guests finished their visit by reviewing the lessons learned and discussing how these could be usefully incorporated into practical strategies for future work in Montenegro.