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MBAL_Rs_tr (3)On 6 February 2013 a team from Equilibrium, the Complex for Social Services for Children and Families and Hope and Homes for Children – Bulgaria gave a joint presentation to medical staff from Ruse Hospital.

The presentation was with informational and educational and was organized by Ruse Regional Health Inspectorate, together with the local coordinator of the Health Ministry’s deinstiutionalization project ‘DIRECTION: Family’.

Milena Vlahova, the operational director of the complex, talked to representatives of the hospital’s maternity and neonatal departments about the working implications of the agreement between Ruse Hospital and Equilibrium signed in April 2012. It regulates the procedure for provision of information when there is a perceived risk of abandonment, thus allowing a social workers and psychologists from the complex to work with the mother and the child’s extended family. The issue provoked intense discussion when it became clear that the timely supply of information and support for the families are of key importance for overcoming the causes leading to the placement of children in institutions. This was supported by 2012 statistics on prevention work done at the complex. The combination of intervention by EQ’s early intervention team and additional material support for families provided by Hope and Homes for Children – Bulgaria meant that, in the last six months, not one single child was placed in the city’s home for medical and social care.

David and Galya Bisset presented the scientific evidence – Attachment Theory – about the potential consequences of institutionalization of children aged 0 to 3 years. They quoted from recent detailed and long-term studies of focusing on SEE drawing on information recently provided by Dr. Andy Bilson, professor of social work at the University of Central Lancashire who is a consultant to the Bulgarian government.

David illustrated how Attachment Theory has evolved since the days of John Bowlby and how there is continuing scope for radical differences of opinion among scientists. He confessed that emotions frequently run high when people talk about children in institutions and this can lead to hyperbole, exaggeration or assertions based on unsubstantiated beliefs. Nevertheless, recent advances in developmental and neuro-psychology and improved cooperation among psychologists, medical practitioners and human anthropologists were bringing about the consolidation of opinion.

The members of the audience were especially intrigued by a question David asked early in the presentation – “There are sound medical reasons for encouraging skin-on-skin contact between premature babies and their mothers. True or false?” He proceeded to describe the origins of ‘kangaroo care’ and to enumerate its benefits that are acknowledged by the World Health Organization.

During a feedback session at the end of the meeting the nurses and the midwives said they had been impressed by the content of the presentation and suggested that meetings allowing the exchange of know hoe should take place regularly. Doctors should participate.