Social support for families: how to prevent institutional care



social support, social services, family, institutional care.


The aim of the research is to present the results of an empirical study on social support for families in preventing institutional care of children. The research was carried out by using semi-structured interview, based on qualitative research principles. The research was carried out in the Telšiai region, in the cities of Plungė, Rietavas, Telšiai, in the period from February 2023 to March 2023. 18 respondents, recipients or providers of social assistance, were interviewed by applying purposeful sampling. Participants included biological (2), foster families (1), social service professionals (13) and older children in care (2).
The data from the empirical study revealed three dimensions: firstly, the causes of crises and potential risks in families involving biological, foster carers, and guardians in difficulty; and the aspects of systemic transformation of care, encompassing dual approach (pros and cons of the transformation), individual experiences related to child care (guardianship), factors influencing the decision to become a standby guardian, and proposals for prevention of child care (guardianship) issues in Lithuania; and finally, the specifics of social assistance provided to biological, foster parent, and duty foster families in the cities of Telšiai, Plungė, and Rietavas.
The results of the study indicated that the most common forms of child maltreatment stem from a lack of parenting skills among parents and in cases of parental divorce. In such cases, social assistance to biological families is essential, as children are often at risk of being placed in institutional care or with foster carers, or even of replicating their parents’ pattern of life in their own families.
The most important positive aspects of the reform of institutional care were highlighted: the child is removed from the family only as a last resort and placed in an environment as close to the family as possible. The main disadvantages of the institutional care transformation were also highlighted: overstaying of temporary care, the shortage of childcare workers, especially in small towns, and the lack of care workers for adolescents and children with disabilities.
The survey revealed that the social service institutions participating in the study do not directly offer preventive social services; instead, they typically refer families to other institutions and organisations for these services or identify individual services as preventive. The study highlighted more recurrent difficulties in providing, organising, and receiving social assistance to families: resistance of families to accepting social assistance, the lack of social services in urban districts and problems with service recipients; problems of cooperation with institutions and the lack of motivation of caregivers to take part in various activities, accepting assistance.
The study also revealed that there is a need to expand the range of social services in the Telšiai region, ensuring their availability and accessibility. Preventive social services, i.e. comprehensive services for families, such as family mediation, transportation, support groups for divorced parents, family conferences, and short-term childcare, must be developed. Social care services for families, including independent living homes, access to personal care workers for families at risk, and the provision of psychological, psychiatric, and legal services must be developed as well.




How to Cite

Meškauskienė, A. ., & Kiaunytė, A. . (2024). Social support for families: how to prevent institutional care. Socialinis Darbas: Patirtis Ir Metodai / Social Work: Experience and Methods, 1(31), 109–143. Retrieved from