The Velux Foundations (Denmark) have invested generously in Bulgaria in the context of their programme ‘Social Initiatives – International’. In the winter of 2020, EQ’s David Bisset was invited to contribute to the organization’s series of publications on the subject of systemic change. The book – Deinstitutionalization in Bulgaria: Making Systemic Change Work – is the result of the Danish / Bulgarian cooperation. Reference is also made to parallel undertakings in Romania and Moldova.
It was a daunting undertaking – the subject is complex and multifaceted and frequently politicized. In March, 2020, Yusra Shawar and Jeremy Shiffman from John Hopkins University produced a paper * that refers to the existence of significant levels of disagreement, extremism and the polarisation of opinion within the deinstitutionalization debate. With significant support from Galya Bisset and Lora Sarkisyan, David embarked on his task aware of the risk of pleasing nobody if you try to please everybody.
The book isn’t really intended for the layperson and is targeted primarily at those with a professional or academic interest in the subject. Nevertheless, in his opening remarks, David makes the following statement –
“When talking about social services for children and families, legislation and regulatory frameworks, things can become a little technical…..but, when writing, I’ve imagined how I would explain the things that I do to one of my mates or a family member.”
The book is arranged in 10 sections and they are reasonably self-contained. Although later sections refer back to earlier sections of the text, it is possible for readers to select the issues they want to explore and go direct to the relevant section. Additionally, there are 116 pdf files accessible at https://eq-bg.org/en/deinstitutionalisation-in-bulgaria/. These demonstrate the extent of the research undertaken by the authorial team. The text also includes commentary provided by a range of professionals chosen because of their immersion in the implementation of DI in the Balkans.
In his preface to the book, Jens-Joergen Peterson explains the intention behind the book – the provision of insights and first-hand experience that can open discussion and contribute to learning. More importantly, he salutes the efforts of those “in the frontline”. The book is dedicated to those practitioners who have taken ownership of the DI process:
“They are out there in social services, child protection, NGOs and government agencies and they are relentless, quietly but strongly influential. They are formally and informally networked and are supported by a growing number of local academics.”
We have a limited number of hard copies of the book that will be distributed to key contributors.
* The De-Institutionalization Debate and Global Priority for Children’s Care, March 16, 2020