In 2010, “Hope and Homes for Children“, together with the Bulgarian non-governmental organization “Equilibrium“, closed the first home for children from 0 to 3 years old in the city of Teteven and created the model for reforming this type of institution.

Hope and Homes for Children was founded by Mark Cook and his wife Carolyn in 1994 when they visited Bosnia and Herzegovina and witnessed the effects of war. They founded the organization with the aim of helping the institutions where children are raised destroyed by the war.

Founders of Hope and Homes for Children

Initially, the organization worked to improve the living conditions in these homes for children. After analyzing the results, the conclusion is reached that even the best institutions cannot offer individual care, attention and opportunities for adequate development of children. They need a family, a home and lots of love. Experience shows that only when he felt safe in his home and surrounded by the love of a caring family, a child would develop his full potential. Thus, the needs of the children direct the work towards deinstitutionalization.

Deinstitutionalization (DI) is the process of closing institutions by developing a range of preventive and supportive services for children’s families as well as alternative care in a substitute family or close to the family environment. The modern service system meets children’s needs for individual, emotional and stimulating care.

Over the past 12 years, “Hope and Homes for Children” has managed or consulted on the closure of 65 institutions. The deinstitutionalization model of “Hope and Homes for Children” has been recognized by UNICEF and WHO as a global best practice.

Hope and Homes for Children” support the reform of the protection and care systems for children in 10 countries of Central, and Eastern Europe and Africa, so that the funds invested in the reforms can improve the quality of life of children and their full realization as citizens.

In 2010, “Hope and Homes for Children”, together with the Bulgarian non-governmental organization “Equilibrium”, helped 32 children from 0 to 3 years old to find their families through the deinstitutionalization of the Children’s Hospital in the city of Teteven. The building has been renovated and the “Center for Public Support” is starting to function there. The training was conducted for the workers at the home and after selection, the most motivated ones now offer new services for children from 0 to 18 years old. The first foster families in Loveshka Olast were trained by “Hope and Homes for Children” and today they lovingly donate to children who are at risk of being abandoned or waiting for adoption.

The Bulgarian branch of the organization was established at the end of 2011 and worked as a priority to reform 31 institutions of this type in Bulgaria.

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Hope and Homes for Children - Bulgaria branch

The Bulgarian branch of "Hope and Homes for Children" was established in November 2011.

The team focuses on supporting children in the age group 0-3 years and their families because the abandonment of babies leaves behind traumas that last a lifetime and prevent these children from growing up as full-fledged adults.

Our goal is to implement a more active policy on the prevention of abandonment and not allowing babies to be placed in specialized institutions in Bulgaria. A systemic approach to family policies is necessary for them to be sustainable. Every child should have a home and family where they feel loved and protected.

Hope and Homes for Children – Bulgaria Branch” invests significant resources in supporting the implementation of the government’s strategy for the deinstitutionalization of children.

In January 2012, we launched the project “Strategic deinstitutionalization and reform of care for children aged 0-3 in Bulgaria” in support of the project “Family Direction” of the Ministry of Health. We built and trained District coordination mechanisms on deinstitutionalization. Through upgrading and complementary activities, we helped to more successfully implement the project within the framework of which 8 DMSGD will be closed in the regions of Sofia, Pernik, Montana, Pazardzhik, Plovdiv, Gabrovo, Targovishte and Ruse.

The project is implemented on the basis of a Memorandum of Cooperation between “Hope and Homes for the Children” the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports and Science, and the Ministry of Health. Its goals and activities are related to the practical implementation of the model developed by our organization for ACTIVE support of families, whose main principles are:

  • Partnership, both with childcare professionals and the families we work with;
  • Respect for the parents we work with – emphasizing their strengths and resources for change;
  • Inclusion of children with disabilities and severe disabilities who need to be accepted both by their families and the community;
  • Sustainability of the normalized family environment and achieving independence in childcare;
  • The best interest of the child is paramount in determining support.

The results of our work as of 12.11.2013 are:

  • Supported families of 373 children at risk so that they are not abandoned and accommodated in the 8 pilot institutions.
  • With our active building and complementary support, 71 children from the same DMSGD have been reintegrated into their biological families.
  • 90 children are placed in foster families.
  • A training program was held for the district coordination mechanisms on deinstitutionalization, which covers 6 main modules:

Why institutions are bad for children

How to close an institution

What it means to support families or the Hope and Homes for Children model of ACTIVEly supporting families.

How to work effectively in KM

Alternative health and social services for children and families

Motivational training for KM members

  • A total of 170 representatives of key institutions and organizations at the local level were trained – Regional Administration, RDSP, DSP, OZD, Municipalities, RZI, hospitals, MOH, RIO, DMSGD and NGOs. In parallel with the trainings, the NDD experts also provided monthly consultations to the members of the CM, as well as to individual specialists, institutions and organizations directly involved in the DI processes.
  • A training program was held for the staff of the DMSGD in the 8 pilot municipalities. A total of 432 employees of the 8 institutions took part in the two trainings.

The trainings are of two types:

Introductory training with the following main topics:

Topic 1: Deinstitutionalization – regulatory framework, current state, good practices and challenges;

Topic 2: The place of the staff of the DMSGD in the process of deinstitutionalization and prospects for professional realization

Topic 3: Development of the child from 0 to 3 years and the consequences of his upbringing in an institution;

Topic 4: The humanitarian mission of the worker with children.

Advanced training that includes the following topics:

Module 1

Topic 1: Multidisciplinary work in the care of children from 0 to 3 years;

Topic 2: Approaches, methods and techniques for working with children from 0 to 3 years old in institutions to overcome deficits in child development;

Topic 3: Individual work with children – a major factor for their condition and growth.

Module 2

Topic 1: Working with families – a systematic approach;

Topic 2: Integration and socialization of children from 0 to 3 years in the community

Since 2012, together with the Government, we have been working to close the other DMSGD as well.

The result was the closure of the Medical and Social Care Center in Shiroka Laka with RESOLUTION No. 340 of December 20, 2012, and RESOLUTION No. 156 of July 29, 2013, for the closure of the Home for Medical and Social Care for Children – Kyustendil. The process of uncovering social services for children in the community continues.

For us, Deinstitutionalization is a complete transformation of the relations in the child care system – from institutional and oriented towards raising groups of problem people – to oriented towards respecting the child-individual and his family. United by this idea and for the direct implementation of National, Regional and Local policies, together with 16 NGOs working with and for children, we created the “Childhood 2025” Coalition.