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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOn 9th November 2011, the Ruse Social Services Complex hosted a round table on the subject of ‘Family oriented practices for early identification of problems in the child development and intervention. Prevention’.

The event brought together representatives from the spheres of social welfare, health and education together with NGOs to discuss the development of an innovative approach to risk prevention and the potential for strengthening parenting capacity as the foundation for optimal child development.

Our special guests were key members of the early intervention team from the Karin Dom Foundation who lead the project. They described the rationale and structure of this innovative family-orientated approach, while the project teams from the Complex and RALIZ – Ruse, described their practical initiatives under the project outlining key achievements and obstacles.

Community education about early childhood development and early intervention strategies plays a big role in prevention of child abandonment, neglect during infancy and poor developmental outcomes due to disability or developmental delays. Increasing social sensitivity and awareness of the issue of disability is an important step towards establishing supportive communities and professional partnerships so that children can be helped from the earliest age and their parents can be supported to meet the special educational needs of their children. Support structures and programmes must become accessible to more families with disabled children. All families have the rights to access information and vital services and should be assisted to communicate their experiences to one another.

The round table is the culmination of a mini project ‘Development of early intervention for children with special needs’. Equilibrium started this project with training and technical assistance from Karin Dom Foundation and funding from the Tulip Foundation and OAK Foundation. The main goal of the project is prevention of the institutionalization of children from 0 to 6 years, when their development is adversely affected by disability, chronic illness, low birth weight or neglect during infancy.

The Complex provides a wide range of services for children at risk and their parents and works towards preventing abandonment and support to children with disabilities. The development of the early intervention programme expands and strengthens our existing repertoire.

The participants shared the opinion that there is a need to improve access in the maternity hospital to mothers who have given birth to a child with disability and are going through an emotional turmoil having to face critical decisions about the child. Appropriate explanation of the diagnosis by the medical team ought to be combined with professional psychological and social support and the opportunity to speak to parents who are raising a child with the same condition. Another impediment to providing early intervention services is lack of delegated state budget – currently such services can be offered only within projects.