There is a shortage of specialists who work with people with disabilities.
Interview with CEO Alexandrina Dimitrova for Bulgarian National Radio (program Horizont)
Author: Valeria Nikolova
The Cedar Foundation is an active participant in formulating, implementing, and evaluating policies in the field of deinstitutionalization. The organization has been included in the closure of 11 institutions for children with disabilities.
“To speak of a failure in the Reform of child care in Bulgaria, would be a very extreme statement,” commented Alexandrina Dimitrova, Executive director of the Cedar Foundation.
“It’s a fact that all homes for children with disabilities were closed down, and the kids were taken out of a really difficult situation of complete isolation. It’s a fact that not only family-type centers but also foster care and community-based social services in support of families were developed,” Dimitrova noted. At the same time, there are indeed problems and NGOs are constantly signaling for them, she added.
“For us, the main problem is the lack of investment in the people who work in these centers. We, at the Cedar Foundation manage 8 such services, but there are over 280 in the country. And it is no coincidence that the non-government organizations, involved in the management of these centers, can be counted on the fingers of one hand,” Alexandrina pointed out.
With the current amount of state funding, it’s difficult for us to provide enough people in the centers who are qualified enough to work with those groups. The centers accommodate children with severe disabilities who have gone through traumatic childhood experiences, Dimitrova explained.
“In most cases, there are 12 to 14 children and young people living in a family-type center with usually one or two people, working in a shift.”
Corporate donors – not a sustainable practice
The Cedar Foundation provides additional funding through corporate donations to hire more professionals. “Fundraising allows us to have 25 additional employees in our 8 centers. Unfortunately, in the long run, we cannot rely on the donors to continue to pay for salaries,” Dimitrova commented.
Training and continuous support for the teams working in the centers, is always needed, she said. The lack of professional supervision, which normally should be a standard for social work, leads to burnout and employee turnover.
The Nursing Home Reform Act
Working with elderly people will be more difficult and will require much more qualified personnel. “My appeal, once again, to the Bulgarian government, is not to invest solely in infrastructure, but also in human resources,” Alexandrina concluded.