Our executive director—Alexandrina Dimitrova was a guest speaker at a webinar titled Progress in the deinstitutionalization of children in Europe: Reflections in the peak of a pandemic, where she shared the lessons learned in Bulgaria from this process so far. This webinar was part of the 5th International Conference on Children and Adolescence that took place in Lisbon in January this year. The conference was attended by experts in psychology, pediatrics, social work, as well as education specialists, representatives of the academia and of international NGOs, working in the fields of childcare and child protection such as Save the Children-Europe and Eurochild, among others.
The aim of the conference was to provoke a discussion on the social aspects of child development by using a multidisciplinary approach which fosters discussion and encourages the active engagement of the participants, who represented the entire spectrum of specialists working with children and youths.
During a webinar in the first day of the three-day conference, Mrs. Dimitrova shared Cedar’s experience as a leading organization in the process of deinstitutionalization and the provision of resident care for disadvantaged children and youths in Bulgaria.
“Deinstitutionalization does not conclude with the shutting down of specialized institutions” – Mrs. Dimitrova said as part of her introduction to the experts and professionals from across Europe. “The important thing is the provision of quality care for children and youths in alternative care as well as, as much as possible, preventing subsequent relocation. This is especially important today when we have data that nearly 35% of children in Bulgaria are at risk of poverty or social exclusion (Save the Children, 2019), and the Covid-19 crisis has led to an increase in the relocation of children in alternative care throughout Europe.”
In her conclusion about the overall process of ensuring the provision of quality care for vulnerable children in Bulgaria, Mrs. Dimitrova highlighted the importance of applying a system-wide approach to the development of quality alternative care as well as in the prevention of abandonment, early intervention, and support for families. “The process of deinstitutionalization in Bulgaria has shown us the necessity of investing in the people who provide care for vulnerable children and youths, which in turn will guarantee quality”— Alexandrina Dimitrova said in her conclusive remarks.
Mrs. Dimitrova’s invitation to participate in this event was yet another example of the widespread recognition of Cedar’s work in the process of deinstitutionalization and it comes at a time when we find a deficit of leadership and good planning at the current stage of the process of shutting down the homes for medical and social care.