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PAAR stands for Participatory and Appreciative Action and Reflection and this conference organized by the Know How Centre for Alternative Care for Children (New Bulgarian University, Sofia) was the first event of its kind in SEE.

The conference was jointly facilitated by Professor Tony Ghaye (UK) and Dr. Galina Markova who heads the Know How Centre. Professor Ghaye is an internationally known exponent of positive psychology and director of Reflective Learning – International.

The event was attended by over 80 participants all of whom have a stake in the closure of residential institutions for children and the development of community based services.

Equilibrium’s chairman, David Bisset provided a short presentation as one of four service providers who were given the opportunity to talk about their innovative practice. His talk – entitled ‘Managing the transition from residential care to community life: a holistic approach’ – focused on the response of Ruse’s centre of social support for children and families to the challenges of coordinating an effective, integrated response to gate-keeping, challenging case management and time pressures that characterize the closure of a baby institution. EQ’s working partnership with Hope and Homes for Children (Bulgaria) was identified as an invaluable part of the recipe for success and the Swedish model of the family centre was cited as David’s inspiration)

The event focused on reflection in small teams and these groups were given a great deal to think about especially as a group of young care-leavers were given the opportunity to give accounts of their own experiences in institutional care and to provide cogent and well-reasoned recommendations on how to improve the transition from institution to life in the community.

The publication of a comprehensive account of the collective thinking that emerged from the event is pending. We will share this with you some time soon.