A journey towards lasting change

The cover of the 4th BICON (Biennial International conference on alternative care for children in Asia) report, with an image of a young girl

The 4th Biennial International Conference on Alternative care for Children in Asia (BICON) took place  over two days in December 2021.

Tessa Boudrie, our Regional Director for Asia and chair of the BICON organising committee, shares the story of how this ambitious event came to be. She also shares the final report, which details the BICON committee’s 17 recommendations inspired by the conference. 

As chair of the BICON organising committee, it is my great pleasure to share with you the report of the 4th Biennial Conference on Alternative Care for Children in Asia (BICON 2021).  

When Dr. Modi of Udayan Care approached us at Hope and Homes for Children to get involved in organising the 4th BICON, we were delighted to do so and explore the opportunities to advance care reform in the region through BICON. Alongside 7 other partners, we put together a programme which highlighted promising practices, and showcased local solutions to challenges faced by countries across Asia. 

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic we sadly had to postpone the in-person conference, but this presented us with an opportunity to provide an online conference and potentially reach more people, both regionally and globally.  

BICON in numbers

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registrants from 179 different organisations

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speakers from 19 countries

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sessions across 2 days

Informed by the experts – children and young people

From the start we were clear that no conference on care reform could take place without the voices of the real experts – young people who have experienced care, and we were grateful to welcome a team of experts, who have guided us with much wisdom, grace and understanding. Key themes of the presentations and discussions included: 

  • Tackling unnecessary separation, with a focus on family strengthening, disability inclusion, and prevention of separation measures for children on the move and in emergency contexts. 
  • Family-based alternative care, including an examination of the need for and role of specialized foster care for children with disabilities and complex support needs, the central role of informal kinship care in ensuring family-based care, and the importance of developing and expanding community-based foster care services. 
  • Quality care, which included a focus on what quality care looks like, its characteristics, and what it means and requires for governments and service providers to ensure all forms of care meet the characteristics of quality care. 
  • Children with disabilities, which included a focus on tackling social attitudes and discrimination, inclusive approaches to care reform and deinstitutionalization and ensuring children with disabilities can reclaim their right to be part of family and community. 
  • Social service workforce development, which took stock of trends in social welfare workforces across Asia, and examined community and cultural approaches to child protection and safeguarding, the role of community leaders and local level social service personnel in supporting children, and considerations for the social services workforce in supporting aftercare. 
  • Perspectives of care experienced young people, which unpacked the challenges faced by young people leaving care in regions across Asia, including during the pandemic, the role of Care Leaver Networks, and the critical importance of addressing mental health issues faced by care experienced young people and ensuring adequate access to mental health services. 
  • Global dimensions, which brought together the perspectives of youth researchers involved in the 2021 Day of General Discussion and global child protection specialists, and focused on listening to the voices of children and young people and working with them to implement recommendations and progress reforms. 

BICON was co-designed by a reference group of

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young people with lived experience of care

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child protection organisations

A key moment for care reform

BICON took place at a key moment in the global movement for care reform for children.  In September 2021, the Committee of the Rights of the Child at the United Nations hosted a Day of General Discussion  (DGD) focused on the rights of children in alternative care.  We were honoured to welcome 3 members of the UN CRC Committee as speakers at BICON, including Dr Rinchen Chophel who writes, 

“As the first major regional event following the DGD, the discussions and insights shared at BICON have started to address the “how”, providing direction on how we can and must move forward, both in Asia and globally. Now it is time to get crucial partners on board, including Asian governments, to effectively lead and redirect and expand resources and deliver systemic change. I look forward to working with the organizing committee, and most importantly the young people, to help make this a reality. “ 

Dr Rinchen Chophel, Director General SAIEVAC and Member of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child & Focal Point for Asia. 

A partnership effort

We are so grateful for all the partners, supporters and participants who helped make BICON a success.    

What a journey it has been. We proudly can call this the start of a newly invigorated care reform movement in Asia. This report gives a flavour of the discussions and topics explored at BICON, outlining what governments and others need to do to bring about change. With millions of children in alternative care in Asia, we’re all motivated to carry on this work to support families and bring about meaningful care reform. Please join us.   

Read the BICON report and recommendations

Read the full report, and see the full recommendations and actions inspired by BICON below.

This report was initially intended for release on the 25th February, but due to the emergency in Ukraine its release has been delayed. Read how we are responding to the war in Ukraine, and find out how you can support our work.