At the invitation of the Minister of Labour and Social Policy, Mrs. Ivanka Shalapatova, Equilibrium is a member of the central expert advisory unit to the newly established Council to support the process of removal of the children placed in the last 4 homes for medical and social care in the country (in Stara Zagora, Kardzhali, Pleven and Varna) and ending the entrance to them. The main objective of the Council is to identify the difficulties in completing the process of deinstitutionalization of children from the last four homes and to propose measures to overcome them.
In parallel, Equilibrium, at the invitation of the Ministry of Health, is a member of an expert working group on the closure of these four homes.
In both structures Equilibrium offers its expertise and experience from the closure of the first infant home in Teteven in 2010, which created the successful model of closure of infant institutions in Bulgaria. Equilibrium’s experts also have experience, gained in partnership with the organization “Hope and Homes for Children – Bulgaria Branch”, in the closure of baby homes across the country from 2012 until now, so that only these last 4 homes remain.
In the working groups, Equilibrium gives its proposals to overcome difficulties and resistances related to the closure of children’s homes. For example, the experience of the closure of the home in Ruse, which had a neonatology ward and it was a problem what would happen to the unborn babies. There are also such wards in the homes in Stara Zagora and Kardzhali. Thanks to the Regional Coordination Mechanism for Deinstitutionalization, created by Hope and Homes for Children, the Special Care Sector at the neonatology unit of the Kanev University Hospital was expanded in Ruse before the closure of the home, where the premature babies still receive the necessary care to gain weight and overcome medical problems after birth. The Ruse experience has also led to the establishment of a financial standard of the Ministry of Health for these kind of issues, so that the problem of premature babies at the NICU can be overcome.
Equilibrium also shares its successful practice from the management of the Centre for family-type accommodation for children and young people with disabilities in need of permanent medical care. Our organization is the only NGO that manages this integrated health and social service, while the other 7 pilots in the country are managed by municipalities. Another 6 such centres are to be opened under the umbrella of the Ministry of Health and Equilibrium’s experience is invaluable in turning these into quality services so that children are accompanied by their parents despite their severe disabilities and poor prospects and receive the best possible care and quality of life. For your information, since 2016, 38 children with extremely severe disabilities requiring 24-hour medical care have been transferred to the centre in Suncho, under the management of Equilibrium. Of these, we have been able to return 14 children to their birth families, 8 children have been fostered and 2 have been adopted. At the moment we care for 8 children in the centre, which is the maximum number of users of this service.
The work in these expert working groups is still to come. Difficult challenges have to be overcome to reach the closure of the last 4 homes for babies, and one of the most important tasks is to develop in the country specialized foster care for children with severe disabilities, a process in which Equilibrium will also share its successful practices with foster families in Ruse and Silistra.