Deinstitutionalisation in Hungarian child protection: Policy and practice changes in historical contexts

Abstract views: 247 / PDF downloads: 147




Institutionalisation, Deinstitutionalisation, Children’s home, Infant home, Foster parents, Socialist ideology


The aim of the study is to present the historical changes in child protection in Hungary and the process of deinstitutionalisation, which is still shaping child protection work in this country. The research seeks to answer the question of how the process of institutionalisation and deinstitutionalisation was implemented in Hungary in the socialist era and after the introduction of Act XXXI of 1997 on the Protection of Children and on the Directorate for Guardianship (Act XXXI of 1997), which was a milestone in the Hungarian child protection for the 0-3-year olds. The study employs a case study methodology with secondary data corpus including legislation and data provided by the Central Statistical Office in Hungary. The scientific approach of the study is mainly historical, presenting the main features of child protection in three distinct periods 1950-1970, 1980-1995 and 1996-2018. The findings indicate that the socialist era has had a prevailing influence on child protection for many decades, but the years following the transition into democracy brought major transformation in child protection, a "transition of the child protection system", paving the way for the process of deinstitutionalisation and the emergence of alternative forms of care.


Act XXXI of 1997 On the Protection of Children and on the Directorate for Guardianship. (1997). Retrieved from

Babusik, F. (2009). Pilot research on the foster care in Hungary.

Baghragh, L. L. (1996). Deinstitutionalisation: Promises, problems and prospects. In H. C. Knudsen, & G. Thornicroft (Eds.), Mental health service evaluation (pp. 3–19). Cambridge University Press. DOI:

Balogh K., Gyurkó Sz., Lippai V., Németh B., & Sánta, N. (2019). Children's rights report 2018. Hintalovon Child Rights Foundation.

Balogh K., Bárdossy-Sánta N., Jánoskúti B., Kiss D., Szekeres Z, Varga A., Varga F., & Vaskuti G. (2021). Children's rights report 2020. Hintalovon Child Rights Foundation.

Bábosik, I. (1976). Moral, political education in children's homes. In Nagy S. (Ed). Program for the further development of foster care (pp. 149-170). National Pedagogical Institute.

Bányai, E. (2015). Intensive family preservation service - a possible variant of early childhood intervention. Journal of Early Years Education, 3(2), 176-186.

Boros, E. (2021). Changes in foster care in Hajdú-Bihar County. In E. Rákó (Ed.), Studies in the field of the child protection (pp .29-57). Debrecen University Press.

Browne, K., Hamilton-Giachritsis, C., Johnson, R., & Chou, S. (2006). Young children in institutional care in Europe. Early Childhood Matters, 105. 15-18.

Central Statistical Office (CSO) (1961). Statistical Yearbook, 1960. Központi Statisztikai Hivatal.

Central Statistical Office (CSO) (1970). Statistical Yearbook, 1969. Központi Statisztikai Hivatal.

Central Statistical Office (CSO) (2004). Foster parents. Központi Statisztikai Hivatal adatai.

Central Statistical Office (CSO) (2006). Information on family, child and youth protection. SZMM Department of Child and Youth Protection.

Central Statistical Office (CSO) (2014). Foster parents. Központi Statisztikai Hivatal adatai.

Central Statistical Office (CSO) (2019). Social Statistics Yearbook, 2019. Központi Statisztikai Hivatal.

Central Statistical Office (CSO) (2021). Foster parents. Központi Statisztikai Hivatal adatai.

Creswell, J. W., & Plano Clark, V. (2017). Designing and conducting mixed methods research. SAGE Publications Inc.

Davidson, J. C., Milligan, I., Quinn, N., Cantwell, N., & Elsley, S. (2016). Developing family-based care: Complexities in implementing the UN guidelines for the alternative care of children. European Journal of Social Work, 20(5), 754–769. DOI:

Domszky, A. (1994). The situation of child and youth protection In L. Csókay, A. Domszky, V. Hazai, & M. Herczog (Eds.), International practice of child protection (pp. 270-324 ). Pont Publisher.

European Commission. (2009). Report of the Ad Hoc Expert Group on the Transition from Institutional to Community-based Care. Directorate-General for Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities.

Finelli, J., C.H. Zeanah, Jr., E. & A. T. Smyke, (2018). Attachment Disorders in Early Childhood. In C. H. Zeanah Jr. (Ed.), Handbook of Infant Mental Health. (pp. 452–466). The Guilford Press.

Foucault, M. (1977). Discipline and punish: The birth of the prison. Penguin.

Gergely, F. (1997). History of Hungarian child protection (1867-1991). Püski Publisher.

Goffman, E. (1961). Asylums. Essays on the Social Situation of Mental Patients and Other Inmates. Anchor Books.

Gottesmann, M. (Ed). (1991). Residential child care. An international reader. Whiting & Birch Ltd.

Gyarmati A., Czibere I., & Rácz, A. (2018). Specific characteristics of care for children aged 0-6 with disabilities or other special needs in child protection and specialised social care. Esély, 30(5), 76-95.

Herczog, M. (1997). The dilemmas of child protection. Pont Publisher.

Hevesi, K., Majoros, M., Mészáros, L., & Tardos, A. (1993). Infant homes and child protection. Esély, 4(1) 81-87.

Homoki A. (2011). Viharsarki foster parents as shapers of postmodern childhood Viharsarki foster parents as shapers of postmodern childhood. ) Esély, 22(2), 86-109.

Lux, Á. & Sebhelyi, V. (Eds.) (2019). The situation of children's rights in Hungary (2014-2019) - Alternative report on the implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in Hungary. Child Rights NGO Coalition.

Majoros, M. (2015). Special issues of children's home education. In J. Podráczky (Ed), Excerpts from Early Childhood Education (pp. 119-161). University of Kaposvár.

Michela, C. (2012). Deinstitusionalisation and quality alternative care of children in Europe: Lessons learned and the way forward. Eurochild.

Miltényi, K., & Münnich, I. (1980). Studies in the field of social integration disorders. Statiszitikai Hivatal Kiadó.

MM Decree XXVIII of 1986 On the Employment Relationship of Professional Foster Parents. (1986). Retrieved from

MT Decree 2111 of 1954 About some organizational issues of child and youth protection. (1954).

Nirje, B. (1994). The Normalization Principle and its Human Management Implications. SRV-VRS: The International Social Role Valorization Journal, 1(2) 19-23.

Onwuegbuzie, A. J. (2012). Putting the MIXED back into the quantitative and qualitative research in educational research and beyond: Moving toward the radical middle. International Journal of Multiple Research Approaches, 6(3), 192–219. DOI:

Petrie, P., Boddy, J., Cameron, C., Wigfall, C., & Simon, A. (2006). Working with children in care: European Perspectives. Open University Press.

Pikler, E. (1976). Manifestations of hospitalism today. Magyar Pszichológiai Szemle, 33(5), 441-447.

Rákó, E. (2014). Living conditions of children placed in child protection institutions. Belvedere Publisher.

Rákó, E. (2011). The situation of specialised child protection services. University Press Debrecen.

Rákó, E. & Bagdács, M. (2011). Foster care placement in Hajdú-Bihar county. Csalad, gyermek, ifjusag.

Révész, M. (2007). The institutional history of primary child protection care in Hungary - Part 2. Kapocs, 6(5), 1-41.

State Audit Office of Hungary. (2004). Report on the control of the specialised child protection activities of local authorities.

Tóth, J. N. (Ed.) (2004). The state of child protection specialized care in the 20th century. Central Statistical Office.

Trede, W. (1993). Reform and development of foster care education in Germany since the "foster care campaign". In Mikola J.-Volentics A. (Eds.), Pszichopedagógia Nevelőotthoni nevelés II. (pp. 110-1128). Textbook Publisher.

United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. (November 20, 1989).

United Nations General Assembly. (2010). Guidelines for the Alternative Care of Children. New York.

Veczkó J. (1990). Psychological and pedagogical foundations of child protection. Textbook Publisher.

Veressné Gönczi, I. (2002). Pedagogy of child protection. Kossuth Egyetemi Kiadó.

White, M. D., & Marsh, E. E. (2006). Content analysis: A flexible methodology. Library Trends, 55(1), 22-45. DOI:

Yin, R. K. (2018). Case study research and applications: Design and methods. SAGE Publications Inc.

Zeanah, C. H., Humphreys K.L., Fox N.A., & Nelson C.A. (2017). Alternatives for abandoned children: insights from the Bucharest. Early Intervention Project. Current Opinion in Psychology, 15, 182–188. DOI:




How to Cite

Rákó, E. (2022). Deinstitutionalisation in Hungarian child protection: Policy and practice changes in historical contexts. Journal of Childhood, Education & Society, 3(3), 275–292.