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The centre for street children managed by Equilibrium applies non-standard approaches to provide adequate support for each child

New approaches, which comply with anti-epidemic requirements and, at the same time, meet the special needs of vulnerable children are being used at the centre for street children managed by Equilibrium. The coordinated measures have been introduced with extraordinary speed so as to preserve the results of the previous work done with the children affected, to guarantee their participation in online education and, at the same time, ensure their safety.

The Covid crisis has presented all social service providers with unexpected difficulties and the need to make unconventional decisions. But the situation is particularly difficult for organizations like the centre for street children adding unprecedented challenges to the already stressful daily work with vulnerable children.

Even the measures for disinfection after working with each child, providing distance, feeding the children are a challenge – according to Stefka Peteva who heads the unit.

Another serious challenge stems from the transition to one-to-one work, so that all children are taken care of but do not come in contact with one another. Such coordination is difficult even for adults, and here we are talking about children who need to get used to a special work regime. The reorganization requires the team to be work quickly and in a highly coordinated manner, adhering to a very precise schedule as the school hours of some end at the same time. The centre currently helps three children register on the school’s distance learning platform.

Additional stress is created by the fact that at the same time two members of the teams have gone on sick leave for two weeks.

Although placed in unusual and stressful circumstances, the centre succeeded in reorganizing all its approaches by the deadline of 23rd November, says Stefka Peteva.

In the space of a single a single afternoon, the centre had to organize its remote work – educational support with children and their parents – provided by a remote team.

The earlier experience of March helped this transition to happen quickly, without problems and interruptions – in addition to individual online work, group online work is now done with some of the children. Work involving direct contact with children is to be resumed in compliance with all anti-epidemic requirements.

One of the main achievements is that, despite the difficulties and despite the low involvement of some parents, all children are covered in distance learning. Team members have access to school platforms for children whose parents cannot fully participate, and monitor what homework is being done and how the children are coping. Two children were provided with laptops for distance learning. Regular contacts have been established with the class teachers of all children.

The team pays special attention to the most vulnerable children, who are mostly left alone at home. Currently, these are two sisters from one family, a brother and sister from another and one child in a third. Team members talk to them several times a day on the phone providing mentoring. Inevitably, there are worrying situations when the children’s phones are turned off and the team can’t contact them, which is solved with a lot of effort – contact with parents, teachers, tracking activity in the school platform, etc.

The team faces a severe challenge in the case of P., who lives in an environment unfavourable for his personal development without the necessary care and often without the presence of a supportive adult. Currently, the Equilibrium team is focusing its efforts on counselling the grandmother and mother in order to provide them with assistance and to be able to raise the child in a better environment.