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In 2008, Equilibrium hosted a study visit to Bulgaria for personnel of CCF-Moldova (see Archive) and our organisations have kept in touch primarily through providing technical support to one another and exchanging literature.

This year’s visit – financially supported by UNICEF Moldova – was significantly more ambitious. Both Moldova and Bulgaria have embarked on deinstitutionalization programmes that involve cooperation between NGOs and government at municipal, regional and national level. EQ plays a leading role in the Bulgarian process while CCF occupies a similar position in Moldova.

EQ also has a close relationship with CCF’s partner in Transnistria, HFC and this organisation was represented among the sixteen visitors that included representatives of the Ministry of Social Protection, the Chisinau mayoral office, the city’s municipal administration, the Directorate for Protection of Child Rights and the Chisinau baby institution that is undergoing closure.

While in Ruse, the guests visited both the social services complex and the Pink House and saw examples of inclusive education at preschool and more senior level with relevant support structures such as resource centres. They also took part in a round table where they were acquainted with Ruse municipality and regional strategies for de-institutionalising childcare over the next 5 years.

In Teteven the group visited the baby institution and saw how the building had been restructured to become a Centre of Social Support that will start to provide new services during 2011. At a meeting in the town hall, the deputy mayor presented the municipal strategy for developing social services for children in order to bring back all local children sent to other institutions in the country (the city’s baby home with a tendency to work well below its operational capacity of fifty was the only institution in Teteven municipality). In addition, Galya Bisset presented the outcomes of the closure project. In both Ruse and Teteven, Mrs. Chifa, the director of the municipal Directorate for Protection of Child Rights gave a presentation on the development of her country’s new structure involving alternative services developed in cooperation with NGOs and the intentions to restructure the baby institution under her jurisdiction that will benefit from the recent exposures to best practice in Bulgaria and also Belarus and Romania.

It goes without saying that EQ is delighted to be part of this international network working for the development of alternatives to institutional care for children.