The Cedar Foundation was among the organisers of the international conference on “Deinstitutionalisation of child care: How to invest in positive change?”. It was held between November 6th and November 8th in Sofia with 250 experts from various universities, institutes and NGOs from Europe, Australia, Central Asia, and the USA. Representatives from the European commission, the Bulgarian Ministry of Labor and Social Policy, other national and international institutions, local and international NGOs, social care providers and experts in the filed of child policy also took part.
During the three-day conference the participants shared scientific findings, work experience as well as best practices and challenges in the field of deinstitutionalisation.
The Cedar Foundation manages the largest number of family-type residential homes. So as one of the leading child care charities in Bulgaria, it carried out a panel discussion which allowed for a presentation of international and local experience and the discussion of the role and quality of the residential services.
The following topics were covered in the discussion: which children need residential care, what does quality residential care mean, and how is it ensured. The aim of the discussion was to shift focus from for or against residential care to a constructive conversation, which acknowledges every child’s need of individualised approach.
Panel discussion presenters:
– Brian McDonald – Positive Behavior Support Manager at Ability West, Ireland, represented by Bisser Spirov, Development and Training Manager at Lumos Foundation
– Roland Staub – member of the board of directors of FICE
– Vania Stratieva-Dimitrova – Program Director at The Cedar Foundation
– Ina Braneva – Psychotherapist and Educator
They spoke about the models of residential care for children with special educational needs and challenging behavior as well as the role of the carers.
The main take away messages from the discussion panel were that there is an urgent need for support for the specialists working in the care homes and that every child / youth is different and should receive individual treatment with their best interest in mind.
During the three-day conference Alexandrina Dimitrova, CEO of Cedar Foundation, appealed for united efforts and for a continuous conversation about how to provide quality care and support to the children and youths who were deinstitutionalised. “Our experience shows that the children referred to family-type residential homes are the ones with the most challenging behavior, most specific needs and psychological disorders or the ones who have experienced extreme adversity, traumatic episodes, and abandonment in their childhood. Thus, the role of the specialists who work in residential homes is essential in ensuring that children receive care relevant to their needs and background. That´s why we appeal for investment in carers’ training, in fueling their motivation and continuous support for them. In addition, it is not only the social system that is responsible for vulnerable and disadvantaged groups. It is high time we shared the responsibility so that these children have a fair chance for a well-balanced development, “ asserted Alexandrina.