As a member of Eurochild, the international network of organizations that provide support to children and protect their rights, The Cedar Foundation co-authored the report on the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the lives of children in Europe, including in Bulgaria. The ‘Growing up in lockdown: Europe’s children in the age of COVID-19’ report summarizes data from 25 European countries, collected between August and September of 2020. The aim of the report is to examine the ways in which the pandemic influences all domains of children’s lives and to provide policy recommendations to governments in Europe on addressing those issues that have a direct impact on children and their families.
The document is based on the evaluations of 42 of Eurochild’s members, including The Cedar Foundation, representing 25 countries. Cedar contributed to the report’s recommendations on the functioning and management of family type homes and on deinstitutionalization policies.
The report emphasizes the fact that most children in family type homes in Bulgaria live with disabilities and their health is vulnerable and frail. Social distancing is impossible in the family type home format because many of the children require intensive care, which cannot be provided without close contact with the personnel. In turn, the staff has to manage the compounded stress and to follow all safety and hygiene measures (e.g., disinfection, tracing, reporting). The lack of access to the accompanying social services and educational institutions during isolation has further contributed to the additional pressure and to the need for staff to carry out new activities and therapies, so that they can meet the children’s needs and take care after the latter’s physical and mental health.
Additional resource has been invested by service providers, including nongovernmental organizations, in the provision of personal protective equipment for staff and for disinfectant agents. Moreover, there was a prolonged lack of clarity as to the steps that would need to be taken in the case of an infection among one of the children or a member of staff, as self-isolation in a family home environment is impossible.
With respect to the policies for children’s care and their rights, there has been a delay in planning for the process of deinstitutionalization. There is a lack of effectiveness in the work of the Permanent Expert Group on Deinstitutionalization, which was created in 2010 with the mandate to monitor the action plan on deinstitutionalization in Bulgaria and to discuss and provide policy recommendations to the national government on its various aspects.
The recommendations in the report that pertain to Bulgaria are also related to the necessity for improving the social system’s capacity for responding in the event of a family crisis and preventing the need for alternative care, support for vulnerable children, a need for national policy for youths who leave the family type homes, and migrant children.
You can read more about the report’s conclusions and recommendations here.