[Bulgaria] Round Table on The Challenges of Deinstitutionalization and Transformation Processes

15 Mar 2018
Know-How Centre for the Alternative Care for Children

On 12th March 2018, a round table took place in Sarajevo on the topic of "The challenges of deinstitutionalization and transformation processes" within the framework of the Child Protection Hub platform. Participants in the round table were representatives of ministries engaged with the process, national child protection agencies, state services for children and NGOs from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Moldova, Romania, Serbia and Croatia.

The round table was organized on the initiative of Mrs. Milena Koren, Senior Expert at the Ministry of Demography, Family, Youth and Social Policy of the Republic of Croatia and the Save the Children - Bosnia and Herzegovina Foundation. The purpose of the event was to share practical experience and to make recommendations for the promotion of deinstitutionalization and transformation activities within the Balkan region.

"Children's place is not in institutions, but in the warmth of the family home, and states have to take their responsibility to establish stricter mechanisms for implementing, monitoring and evaluating the process" - this was one of the main messages of the round table. The processes of deinstitutionalization and transformation have begun in all these countries but they are at a different stage in their implementation. Good practices and difficulties in different countries are both different due to the varying stages of implementation and are similar due to the similar context. For example, in nearly all countries a major challenge is the financing of a long-term and purposeful process of deinstitutionalization and transformation, in some it is the aspect of existence of political will and continuity between governments for strategic planning of processes, and in third - the lack of procedures for licensing of specialists working with children. The Child Modeling and Institution Prevention Model developed and implemented by the Hope and Homes for Children Foundation has been recognized as a plausible and successful model in all countries of application. Furthermore, Bulgaria was presented as a country where the processes of deinstitutionalization and transformation have achieved their best results and their overall planning and implementation has been recognized as good practice by both the represented at the round table countries and by the European Union.

Participants on the Bulgarian side were Mrs. Rositsa Dimitrova, Deputy Minister at the Ministry of Labor and Social Policy, Mrs. Valentina Simeonova, expert on deinstitutionalisation processes at the Know How Center for Alternative Child Care, New Bulgarian University and Mrs. Radostina Antonova, researcher at the Know How Center for Alternative Child Care, New Bulgarian University.

"The continuation of the reform of the deinstitutionalization of childcare is not possible without investing in human capital and raising the qualification of the professionals involved in its realization," said Deputy Minister of Labor and Social Policy Rositsa Dimitrova. She presented the results of the first stage of the deinstitutionalization of childcare. "For the period  between 2010-2017, the number of children in institutions in Bulgaria has been reduced from 7,587 to 906 and the number of institutions has been reduced from 137 to 36. Specialized institutions for children with disabilities no longer exist. At the same time, there are three times as many social services in the community, and the number of children using social services for counseling and daycare has increased significantly, " said Mrs. Dimitrova.

During the forum Deputy Minister Dimitrova presented the updated plan for the continuation of the reform of deinstitutionalization of childcare until 2025. She pointed out that 149 new services for 7,092 users are to be built. Emphasized as a key prerequisite for the successful implementation of the reform was the coordinated cooperation between government officials as leaders in this process, municipalities, services, the community, non-governmental organizations as carriers of innovative models, funding organizations, and the children and families themselves. Dedicated monitoring and quality monitoring, understood and implemented as a research and support rather than a sanctioning process, is crucial to understanding what is happening "on the road" of social change and its successful management, emphasized Mrs. Valentina Simeonova.

The participants in the round table united around recommendations which would be presented to stakeholders as soon as possible.

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