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The conference was designed to showcase EQ’s work from 2015 and to give a preview of the year ahead and the focus was on the way that EQ prioritizes the rights of the children we work with. The event was jointly organised with EQ partner – the Open Society Club –Ruse.

The mixed audience comprised representatives of the municipal authority, child protection service providers, NGOs, schools and, kindergartens, EQ clients and the general public.

We were especially happy about the participation of some of the young adults that we care for in our small-group homes. One of the boys – Bobby – was accompanied by his grandfather who provided the audience with an insight into the significance of his reunion with his grandson who had spent most of his life in institutional care. He shared memories of Bobby’s early childhood.

Milena Vlahova, operations director of the Ruse complex, provided a vivid impression of the range and scale of the integrated services provided by EQ with the complex working a the managerial hub..

A total of 940 children and adults have received support during 2015. Here is how the figures work –

  • A total of 940 adults and children (discrete individuals) – their parents, relatives, foster parents, adoptive parents and expectant mothers have received support in the complex;
  • 53 women received professional support and counselling on the basis of our presence at the city’s maternity unit. It is noteworthy that the number of cases demanding intervention because of fears about the abandonment of infants was markedly lower than in 2014. EQ now manages a programme of coordinated outreach work in marginalized communities that helps prevent many of the risks associated with childbirth and social vulnerability.
  • 117 children were involved in group activities during the year;
  • 59 parents participated in group work and training;
  • 47 parents or other care providers received counseling;
  • 33 teacherswere involved in the our professional training.

We reviewed the highlights of our work in and around the centre for street children that has involved expansion of our activities in schools as well as new activity in neighbourhoods that are some distance from the complex meaning that it is difficult for children to attend activities at the complex. We explored the impact of new partnerships and joint actions that help imbed the work we do with the children into a larger community-based framework of informal education and structured recreation.

Our small-group home known as the Pink House is home for several young adults who have been with us for some time having been transferred there from the residential institution in Mogilino. However, it also acts as a temporary home for younger children with special needs and our ambition is to help prepare these youngsters for transfer to foster families or into adoptive families. We briefly told the stories of those families that had found families during 2015.

Two of our proudest achievements in the centre of social support, are the partnerships formed with experienced foster parents that allow us to support the care of children with disabilities in a home environment and the operation of the ‘blue room’, a facility that has helped transform the involvement of vulnerable children in court proceedings.

We were delighted that representatives of the centre of social support in Veliko Tarnevo joined us for the event. The facility is managed by SOS Children’s Villages and this organisation provided support and inspiration in the development of a programme we piloted in local kindergartens that revealed to parents and kindergarten staff the impact of styles of parenting and care that focused on blaming and correcting ‘bad behaviour’. This work will be continued and expanded and it has proved the platform for the publication of a booklet focusing on Positive Parenting. During the event, parents shared their experience of dealing with their children’s behaviour from a positive perspective.

Positive Parenting is one of many models that EQ will explore in the future in the context of developing a new facility in Ruse – and Early Childhood Resource Centre. A movement from services rooted in child protection towards the provision of holistic family support needs to be accompanied by the education of parents, educators and childcare professionals in Early Childhood Development. This should shape how young children are raised and educated but the way we deal with the subject cannot be overly simplistic or ideological. The new facility will be a centre of research and learning that is also easily accessible to parents. We will explore new ways of communicating and working with families that ar non-invasive and respectful of parental rights.

In the context of a project dedicated to child participation in the childcare process, EQ created a short film that shows our interaction with young adults from the small-group homes, Love and Hope. The film – ‘I have an opinion! Supported participation of children and young adults with disabilities’ – was designed the simple methods we use to help youngsters with special needs to formulate and express opinions.

The work done in 2015 unfolded against the backdrop of the closing stages of the first phase of the national deinstitutionalisation (DI) programme. Inevitably, DI has had a significant impact on the child protection community. Regrettably, the post mortem tends to focus on the things that did not go terribly well, the lack of resources for community-based care and the great deal of work that remains to be done. EQ argues that this negative perspective should not be allowed to demoralize those who work at the front line of child protection. Positivity and acknowledgement of success are hugely important.

Arguably, positivity shapes EQ’s approach to the coming year.