Equilibrium is a pioneer in the reform of the Homes for Medical-Social Care for Children. In 2009 – 2011, together with the British organisation Hope and Homes for Children – UK, we closed the first of Bulgaria’s 32 baby homes. The facility was in Teteven and it contained 34 children (0 – 3).
We introduced a programme for ACTIVE family support to prevent other children from being placed there. We assessed the children, already placed in the home, and endeavoured to locate their parents. We returned 12 of the children to their homes, 20 were adopted and 2 children were placed in foster care and subsequently adopted. In the building of the former baby home, repaired and restructured, a centre for social support was opened that was to continue the programme for ACTIVE family support, provide an emergency placement unit and work for the development of foster care and other services needed by the children and families in the municipality.
We actively supported the closure of the Home for Medical-Social Care for Children in Ruse (2012 – 2015) working via the centre for social support, managed by us, offering services for prevention of child abandonment and returning the babies to their homes, by applying the model of ACTIVE family support. (What this means in practice you can read on the following website http://eq-bg.org/bg/lyubovta-ima-znacenie/).
Since 2012, we have been working in close relationship with the maternity unit in Ruse in order to identify early signs of uncertainty /abandonment and to inform, encourage and support mothers in the care of their babies. We reorganized the emergency unit (a part of the CSS, with a capacity of 4 places and a family environment) to accommodate newborns, mothers with babies, and to offer a meeting place with the option of an overnight stay for mothers of children with disabilities, placed in baby homes, in the process of reintegration.
We developed foster care for babies and children with disabilities by encouraging and training experienced and approved foster families to take up this challenge. And they did really well. In the family-type accommodation that we manage, known as the Pink house, and a home for the first group of children from Mogilino, we took care of 3 of the children with the most severe and complex disabilities from the baby home in Ruse.
We supported the closure of the Home for Medical-Social Care for Children in Shiroka Laka in 2013, placing the last two children (a brother and a sister, one with mental disability) in the emergency unit in Ruse and subsequently in a foster family.
Similarly, we supported the closure of the baby home in Shumen, 2014 – 2015, accommodating 4 of the last children with severe disabilities (severe self-aggression, difficulty in swallowing and nutrition) in the Pink house.
We supported the closure of the Home for Medical-Social Care for Children in Silistra, 2016 – 2017, by accommodating mothers of babies with disabilities in the baby unit, one of the services, managed by us, in the former baby home in Ruse. We helped them accept their babies with special needs and learn how to take care of them, so they can become confident in raising their children at home. In this way, we prevented other children with disabilities from being placed in the home in Silistra.
In 2018, we accommodated the last two children from the baby home in Silistra, who needed constant medical care, in the Centre for Family-type Accommodation for Children in Need of Constant Medical Care (another service we manage in the place of the closed baby home in Ruse).
Equilibrium is the only nonprofit organization that has been managing a Centre for Family-Type Accommodation for Children in Need of Constant Medical Care (since 2016). In 2017, we took part in the developing of the functional characteristics of the 20 more such centres to be established and we can offer to host study visits and trainings for the future teams.
The parents are encouraged to accompany their children during their stay in the centre. After all the medical interventions needed, the stabilization of the child’s condition and after gaining confidence in caring for their child, the mothers can return home with their baby. If, despite all our efforts, a newborn is abandoned, we try to find a foster family. Unfortunately, for some of the children, the centre is a place for palliative care. That is why we are trying to provide a warm family atmosphere, individual attention and sensory stimulation for an optimal quality of life for as long as it lasts
We have fully closed 1 home, and we have provided decisive support in the closure of 4 more baby homes by accommodating the last children with severe disabilities, accepting the risk and responsibility for the specific children. This was done in the name of successful childcare reform, also called Deinstitutionalisation.