The report of the Disability Rights International, presented on 11/21/2019, raises the important question about the quality of care at the Family-type placement centers (SGHs) and how the reform to ensure the well-being of children and families in Bulgaria is happening. We, as organisations that are facing the challenges of the unfinished deinstitutionalization reform every day, have been insisting for years that it cannot be exhausted and limited only by building premises with the lack of a complete and system change, as it was developed in the National strategy “Vision for deinstitutionalization of the children in the Republic of Bulgaria”. Led by the belief that children and young people, placed in the Family-type placement centers, should receive quality care and support and their rights should be protected, we have always sought and identified the causes of the existing problems in these services and we have repeatedly suggested solutions towards the responsible state authorities on how to deal with them.
Once again, Coalition “Childhood 2025” recalls the causes of the problems we have found in the Family-type placement centers , based on evidence from practice, which are reflected in the Permanent Expert Working Group‘s (PEWG) Analysis of the role of resident care in the system of measures for child protection from 2018:
- Inadequate financial standard that cannot meet the specific needs of children and young people; insufficient number of the staff – underqualified and underpaid,without receiving the training and professional support, necessary to deal with the various difficulties in childcare;
- Lack of specialization of Family-type placement centers on how to meet the specific needs of different target groups of children and young people with or without disabilities who are accommodated in them;
- Insufficient and inefficient interaction between the resident services, healthcare system, education system, police and other institutions, which makes the staff of the Family-type placement centers feel that they are fully responsible for all this aspects of childcare;
- Lack of permanent monitoringon the quality, including a permanent independent monitoring, to register problems in a timely manner and to assist in their resolution; to provide objective evidence of the quality of childcare and ideas on how to increase the professional capacity.
Above all, it has always been extremely important to us to invest not only in buildings, but also in human resources and in improving the care in the existing Family-type placement centers. Once again, we draw attention to the recommendations, set out in the PEWG’s Analysis of the role of resident care in the system of measures for child protection from 2018:
- To increase the number of staff and thefinancial standard of all Family-type placement centers with a minimum of 40%;
- To update the Methodology for the Family-type placement centers and the Methodology for the determinationof staff positions in the specialised institutions for children and community-based services, with a view to increasing the staff number coefficient in the Family-type placement centers, as it applies to those staff who work directly with children;
- To support the staff by organising and conducting obligatory trainings – introductory and upgrading, according to the specific characterof the respective service, by defining a separate item in the budget of the respective service, without the possibility of a targeted use of the funds for other needs. We specify, that the trainings should be continuous and should be led by trainers with extensive practical experience and those services, that have proven to be good practice, should be turned into potential training centers;
- To examine the international best practices and to elaborate an analysis on the possible ways to fund the service;
- To update the Case Management Methodology.
- To encourage the development of volunteering towards the inclusion of volunteers in the daily care support of the service – accompanying a child, together with a babysitter, participating in socialization activities;
- Establishment of a council at regional level to coordinate the interaction/problem solving ofthe functioning of the various institutions in support of children and young people, accommodated in the Family-type placement centers – accompanying children in medical establishments, educational institutions; employment of the users, etc.;
- Information campaign to change the negative public attitudes towards the resident service – Family-type placement center.
- Need to develop a funding model based on the individual needs of each child / youth accommodatedin a Family-type placement center;
- Specializationof the Family-type placement centers.
The real deinstitutionalization, as enshrined in the National Strategy “Vision for Deinstitutionalization of Children in the Republic of Bulgaria”, requires not only the closure of specialized institutions for children, but a complete change in the support system, which includes the development of quality family counseling centers for the support of more than 2000 children and families from the community, development of services for children with mental health problems, provision of various and sufficient support services, reform of the Agency for Social Assistance and the State Agency for Child Protection, good qualification and and training of the professionals, working in the system, including the provision of a decent
It is unacceptable to question the deinstitutionalisation process or to completely deny what has been achieved so far, but it is a fact that the systemic changes are not happening. We once again urge the Bulgarian Government to implement the recommendations of the Analyses, elaborated by the Permanent Expert Group on the role of residental care in the system of measures for child protection so as to guarantee the quality of life of children and young people accommodated in the Family-type placement centers, and to implement all the reforms envisaged in the Action Plan to the deinstitutionalization strategy.
Coalition “Childhood 2025”:
Bulgarian association for persons with intellectual disabilities (BAPID)
Bulgarian association of the clinical psychologists
Bulgarian Helsinki committee
Bulgarian center for not-for-profit law
Know-how centre for alternative childcare, New Bulgarian University
Association for educational and social assistance for children FICE Bulgaria
SOS children’s villages – Bulgaria
De Passarel Foundation
For our children Foundation
Karin home Foundation
International social service – Bulgaria Foundation
Hope and homes for children – Bulgaria
Rossittsa Bogalinska – Petrova – individual member
Haralan Alexandrov – individual member