Since 2011, Hope and Homes for Children – Bulgaria has actively been working on the deinstitutionalization process of children between the ages of 0 and 3 in Bulgaria. The mission of the organization is to be a catalyst for the eradication of institutional care for children. Through active policies for prevention of abandonment and closing the entrance for babies in institutions, through supporting biological families in the reintegration of their children from institutions, by applying a systematic approach towards all family policies and by securing the sustainability of all results, Hope and Homes for Children – Bulgaria is building a new reality where every child has a home and a family.
The conference begun with Mr. Georgi Simeonov’s address to all participants in and guests at the event. The executive director of HHC – Bulgaria marked the main problems in the deinstitutionalization process of children. He noted the organization’s model of work in Bulgaria and shared the key for all success – a motivated and flexible team. Overcoming family crises so as to prevent the separation of children from their families is a main priority of every employee of the organization. Together with the local partners – CPDs, municipal, regional structures and local businesses, they manage to help children in being raised in a family environment rather than placed in an institution. Mr. Simeonov presented each employee of the organization as the magical, fairytale character they see themselves being in HHC – Bulgaria.
Hope and Homes for Children – Bulgaria works actively with and is part of the Coalition “Childhood 2025”. This is a Coalition of more than 16 NGOs that are participating and leading the process of forming national policies, which guarantee the sustainable models of child development in Bulgaria.
Mrs. Rositsa Dimitrova, deputy minister of Labour and Social Policy, Mrs. Eva Zhecheva, director of the “Child protection” department of the Ombudsman of the Republic of Bulgaria, and Mr. Emil Todorov from the Agency of Social Assistance marked the incredible contribution of HHC-Bulgaria in the DI process, acknowledging the organization’s timely support, flexible structure and sustainable work models.
Jens-Joergen Pedersen, senior adviser and head of programme at the Velux Foundation received the honorable award “Professional with a passionate heart” for the foundation’s contribution in the deinstitutionalization process of children in Bulgaria and Velux’s support in helping as many children as possible to live in a family environment.
Mr. Stefan Darabus, regional manager for Central and Southern Europe at Hope and Homes for Children – UK presented the global development of the organization and underlined the social, economic and community advantages of keeping children in their families rather than placing them in an institution. He acknowledged the fact that HHC – Bulgaria is working in successful partnership with all governmental, regional and local authorities and noted the importance of such partnerships.
Boryana Klimentova, Elena Petkova and Kremena Stoyanova introduced all participants to the work of HHC – Bulgaria in the Northern and Southern part of the country through the perspective of turning children’s dreams into reality – supporting children so that they are with their families, they are loved, they are not abandoned, they are unique, they have dreams, they aspire to be great in what they like and they have never seen the inside of an institution. One story, shared by HHC – Bulgaria’s coordinator in Silistra brought the audience to tears. It was the story of a child with multiple, severe disabilities, who was abandoned in an institution. The parents left their child because they were told they wouldn’t be able to take care of the child. Our coordinator shares the story of a child with the same disabilities, who is living at home, surrounded by the love of their family. The parents immediately start visiting their child in the institution, they start working on the child’s medication and gradually reach the moment when the child can be reintegrated back at home.
The strength and will needed for this decision were there due to the support of HHC – Bulgaria. The organization manages to encourage and give hope to numerous families who are at a point of despair.
The children who led the second panel of the conference and motivated the audience to participate and listen to children’s voices by playing a child version of “Family Feud” stirred up a lot of emotions and energized all guests, who are working in the child protection system in one way or another. The participants in the game had to guess the top answers that 30 children gave to four main questions, related to child safety and participation. One of the questions was “When do children feel safe?”.
This game proved to be very difficult and managed to practically show how hard it is to put oneself in a child’s shoes. The game was a clear indication of the fact that all grown-ups and especially the specialists working in the system, have to hear and listen to children’s wishes and views and to change the world based on their needs and visions.
There have been changes in governments, attitudes, views of the future, nonetheless, children expect love, security, care and trust from adults as well as respect for their rights and responsibility. Because the future can be brighter only when people grasped the influence their work has on children’s lives and do their job responsibly and professionally. This is also one of the main messages of the conference.