Studies, Reports, Books

Reports: Roma Empowerment and Support for Inclusion

Under the Capacity building of Roma supporting partners project, carried out by ISSA in partnership with Bernard van Leer Foundation from April 2014 to November 2016, the case studies Roma Empowerment and Support for Inclusion were developed. These reports are created to convene debates around the inclusion of young Roma children and their families, for influencing European policies and transferring good practices to other countries. The three case studies were generated around the projects funded by Bernard van Leer Foundation in Italy, Belgium and the UK/Northern Ireland and assisted by ISSA. A synthesis report with policy recommendations was developed by ISSA based on the three case studies. Each case study presents key issues related to the project implementation: strategies employed, specific context, challenges, outcomes, monitoring and evaluation and lessons learned. They explore and reflect on the scalability and sustainability of the project interventions and propose a few policy recommendations. In addition, the case studies indicate the added-value for the implementing organizations of the external technical support. In this case done by ISSA through capacity building, peer learning and networking on national and international level.


Roma Empowerment and Support for Inclusion – Case study Ghent, Belgium

The Belgium case study on the project in Ghent refers to the multi year project Bridging Figures (BIEMs) - The Intra European Migration School Mediators. The project aimed to support children from the age of 2 ½ years until the age of 12 in exercising their right to quality education by supporting their parents, improving communication between schools and parents, supporting school teams and building networks in the neighborhood. It was implemented by City of Ghent with financial support from the Bernard van Leer Foundation. Through the project, approximately 250 Roma children and their families were reached in 4 schools.

This case study highlights the importance of the political will as a driver for introducing and supporting universal and inclusive policies benefiting the whole society and not only a target group, in this case Roma children and families.

The case study is available in English and will be available in Dutch.


Roma Empowerment and Support for Inclusion – Case study Rome, Italy

The case study on Rome, Italy focuses on two projects, Sar San (1 and 2) and Stop Roma Apartheid (continued as Aver Drom) implemented by Associazione Luglio 21 Onlus from Rome and ABCitta Societa Cooperativa Sociale Onlus from Milan. The two projects complemented each other: Sar San (since 2013) focused on providing services for Roma children and families living in camps and Stop Roma Apartheid (started in 2014 and continued as Aver Drom since 2015) which focused solely on advocacy on the level of municipality and in national fora. The case study clearly demonstrates both the urgent need for intervention and the challenges of working in a politically and economically hostile environment marked by discriminatory practices and segregation of Roma. It also showcases the importance of advocacy efforts and actions aimed at addressing child- and human rights and with awareness raising on the importance of inclusion of young Roma children and their families in the mainstream society.

The case study is available in English and in Italian.


Roma Empowerment and Support for Inclusion – Case study Belfast, Northern Ireland

The Roma Community Outreach (RCO) project in Belfast, Northern Ireland was implemented by the Community Foundation for Northern Ireland, Mediation Northern Ireland and South Belfast Roundtable. The project was aimed at Roma parents and grandparents with young children (birth to age 5)empowering them by offering  programmes to increase their parenting skills and employability. The project was guided by a slogan “Nothing about us, without us” and promoted Roma leadership and participation in many different capacities, with a strong emancipation component for the Roma community through professional development opportunities. This case study features the potential of small scale community based interventions and need to have strong anti-discrimination, social justice and peace-building components when working on Roma inclusion.

The case study is available in English.


Roma Empowerment and Support for Inclusion report - Synthesis report of the Case Studies in Ghent, Belfast and Rome – Policy Recommendation

Based on the information provided in the three case studies around the projects funded by Bernard van Leer Foundation and implemented by partner organizations in Belfast, Ghent and Rome, this report shows the key findings in the studies. It summarises the cross-national issues consolidated around four areas: 1. Parenting support; 2. Children’s access to quality early childhood services; 3. Influencing public awareness on Roma inclusion and early childhood development; 4. Capacity building and empowerment of Roma actors.

The policy recommendations were developed based on three case studies and on the conclusions of the group discussions at the policy roundtable meeting organised by ISSA in partnership with Bernard van Leer Foundation in Brussels, in September 2016. The policy recommendations regarding Roma empowerment and support for inclusion with a specific focus on young children, concerned: The importance of political will and finances; Mediators as key actors for inclusion; Strengths based approaches and family support as key entry point for inclusion; and Comprehensive approaches as ways for breaking the barriers for inclusion.

The case study is available in English.


Under-three Year Olds in Policy and Practice: ISSA’s Program Director Mihaela Ionescu and Program Specialist Dawn Tankersley have contributed to the first book in the new Springer series, Under-three Year Olds in Policy and Practice.

Their chapter, A Quality Framework for Early Childhood Practices in Services for Children Under Three Years of Age: Starting Regionally – Moving Globally, describe both the process of and need for developing such a framework.

The care of children under three years of age in the regions of Central/Eastern Europe, Central Asia, and the Commonwealth of Independent States had a different history from other parts of Europe. Until the early 1990s, the educational system in the Soviet Union and communist-bloc countries provided care and education for the vast majority of young children from birth through entrance into primary school in state-supported centres with trained, qualified staff. These centres were part of the public-good approach which put women into the workforce by guaranteeing their children’s needs for food, cleanliness, and safety were well attended to. After the fall of the Communist Bloc in the early 1990s, many factors, such as economic crises, increased unemployment, and a sharp reduction in public investment for children’s care and education, altered what had been a well-regulated and well-funded public service leading to the closure of many centres and crèches.

In 2013, ISSA surveyed its 40 member organizations on early childhood care and education services being offered in their countries to children under three years of age and their families.  Results showed that children’s and families’ access to these services had decreased since the 1990s and that where they did exist, the quality in many locations was low. The report shows that the status of services for children from birth to three years of age, although services for this age level are offered by law, there is very limited room in the crèches/daycare centers for younger children and then, usually only in urban areas. Barriers to providing early childhood services in crèches and daycare centers cited in the report include: a lack of awareness of the importance of this age group, lack of finances; and lack of coordination between sectors. Some of the common problems existing in services in the region for this age category and their families include:  too many children cared for by a single adult; fragmentation of services between different ministries as well as between national and local authorities; and a lack of national, unified quality standards for services for this age level in many countries. As the importance of quality experiences for the optimal development of children in this age level becomes more documented, these challenges are requiring more urgency to overcome.

The Springer book can be purchased on their website.


Reaching and Investing in Children at the Margins: Summary of a Joint Workshop by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine; Open Society Foundations; and the International Step by Step Association (ISSA)

“Reaching and Investing in Children at the Margins” was the title of the event co-hosted by ISSA and the Open Society Foundations in partnership with the National Academy of Sciences’ Forum on Investing in Young Children Globally, in Prague, November.  The public events attracted top-class speakers from across the world and featured presentations and discussions highlighting the science and economics of investing in children at the margins of society by investing in their health, education, nutrition, and social protection. Download your free copy here.




How do ISSA's Quality Principles relate to the democratic process?

Read ISSA's Principles of Quality Pedagogy: Quality Early Childhood Education and Care Through Democratic Processes as featured in the first edition of the Learning for Well being online journal, published, January 2016. You can read the full article here



September 2015. In the journal Early Childhood, ISSA Program Director, Mihaela Ionescu, unpacks the power of associations in Early Childhood Education and Care, with a particular spotlight on ISSA and the added-value the organization brings by strengthening knowledge among the membership. The full article is avaliable here


Published by Bernard van Leer Foundation, Early Childhood Matters is a journal about early childhood, which looks at specific issues regarding the development of young children, in particular from a psychosocial perspective. In June 2015 issue, ISSA contributed the article Quality in Early Childhood Settings: universal values and cultural flexibility.

Click here to open the Pdf






Measuring and Improving Quality in Early Childhood Environments

ISSA, UNICEF, UNESCO and the Bernard van Leer Foundation, in partnership with the World Bank and the Brookings Institution met in Leiden, the Netherlands to draw attention to the importance of measuring and improving quality in early childhood environments.

Discussions around quality in early childhood environments have increased in recent years, while dilemmas concerning methodology, measuring and consistency remain largely unresolved. The aim of the meeting was to establish an agenda around which these questions can be answered. 

This exceptional opportunity for specialists from around the world to converge and combine their thoughts and skills was held in Leiden’s Child Rights Home. 

You can read the full report here.

If you require more information contact ISSA's Communications Officer Federico Lanzo:

Early childhood education and care (ECEC) for children from disadvantaged backgrounds: Findings from a European literature review and two case studies

A new report launched  by the European Commission includes a case study exploring the work of ISSA’s network and of the Open Society Foundations (OSF): OSF/ISSA Approaches to Teacher Training and Pedagogy. The case study was written by Dawn Tankersley (ISSA Program Expert) and Sarah Klaus (Director, Early Childhood Program, Open Society Foundations).

Early Childhood Education and Care Services for Children from Birth to Three years Old

As a result of a survey developed among 29 of ISSA’s full members in May 2013, the new publication, Early Childhood Education and Care Services for Children from Birth to Three years Old, makes a significant contribution to understanding the need for action in early childhood services serving the youngest children and their families across Central Eastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CEE/CIS).Read more...

Growing through sharing together: needs and aspirations of Romani Early Childhood professionals


The publication Growing through Sharing Together: Needs and Aspirations of Romani Early Childhood Professionals is the result of the mapping research conducted by ISSA in partnership with OSF and ISSA Members in 2012 to determine the professional interests and needs of Romani Early Childhood Developmentpractitioners.The study has been carried out in the following countries: Albania, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Kosovo, Macedonia, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia and Ukraine. Read more...

Early Childhood programs as the doorway to social cohesion: application of Vygotsky's ideas from an East West perspective

This book is an edited volume of peer reviewed papers based on research presented during the 17th EECERA Conference Exploring Vygotsky's Ideas: Crossing Borders, hosted by ISSA. The main focus of the book is to illuminate how the Russian psychologist Lev Vygotsky has influenced early childhood education in both Western and Eastern contexts, and how his work has represented a seminal approach to the globalisation of ideas. The book is available from Cambridge Scholars Publishing. Read more…

Early Childhood Development and Education in emergencies: country profiles from the CEE/CIS region

Recognizing the significant vulnerability of children in emergency situations, this publication maps the existing emergency preparedness resources and plans for protecting children’s rights and meeting their needs in five countries in the CEE/CIS region (Bosnia-Herzegovina, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, and Tajikistan). Created under the auspices of a partnership project between UNICEF and ISSA in 2009, the profiles provide an overview of the emergency context in the five countries, highlighting common issues which need to be addressed as countries further develop their emergency response plans to ensure that the needs of children and their families are met. Read more...

Handbook of ECD experiences, innovations and lessons from CEE/CIS

The Handbook of ECD Experiences, Innovations, and Lessons from CEE/CIS show successful cases of early childhood development (ECD) investments and public/private partnership in Central and Eastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CEE/CIS). The examples are from both within and outside the ISSA network, and ISSA hopes that the Handbook will serve as a source of inspiration in considering new ways of improving and expanding integrated ECD services, both in the CEE/CIS region and beyond. The Handbook was launched at the ECD Policy Roundtable: Investing in Early Childhood: The Most Effective Use of a Nation's Resources, hosted by the Romanian Ministry of Education, Research, and Innovation, UNICEF and ISSA in October 2009 in Bucharest, Romania. Read more...

Study on the implementation of the ISSA Pedagogical Standards (2001-2008)
In English:                       In Russian:
This ISSA study compiles a comprehensive overview of how the ISSA Pedagogical Standards have been used since their introduction by Step by Step NGOs across the ISSA network of 29 member organizations. Covering the work developed between 2001 and 2008, it provides insight into what has been learned over the years that could help inform ISSA's work going forward. Read more…