According to Finnish professor Mirjam Kalland a child “demands continuity, stability and recurring routines”. Kelland provides a recipe for the professional support by claiming that “we can support the health of individual children and families with very ordinary things, with the ‘magic of the ordinary’”. (Source: ‘Family centre in the Nordic countries – a meeting point for children and families’, Nordic Council of Ministers, Copenhagen 2012).
As the volume of Equilibrium’s encounters with Ukrainian mothers with young children increases, the importance of the message conveyed by Kalland – her practical wisdom – becomes increasingly apparent.
Focus has been placed on the interaction and relation of the families in question with public institutions. Nationally, we have seen the inevitable focus on regulatory compliance (eg vaccination certificates for children). We have questioned the capacity of the care and education systems (eg the availability of places in daycare centres, kindergarten and preschool classes).
Kalland prompts us to think about “ordinary things” like the provision of social contact and assisting those with scarce financial resources by providing shoes and clothing of rapidly growing youngsters as well as books and structured recreation to assist the development of young minds.
Before we opened our family centre, we asked parents what they’d like us to provide. They provided the following short list –
- Ease of accessibility to advisors and resources
- A comfortable, welcoming meeting-place that provides a sense of community and shared values
- Simple, positive communication and informal interaction
- The opportunity to contribute
This framework helps us formulate our approach to Ukrainian mothers and children. The watchword is Simplicity. It allows us to make extensive use of the synergies between the family centre and the social services we manage, our relationships within the community and the multiple resources that these points give us access to.
As a drop-in centre we need to be able to access advice and to draw resources in our direction.
It can be simple: “We need summer shoes for a 4-year-old who only has winter boots. What do you have at the social services complex?”
It can be challenging but, nevertheless, the response should comply with Kalland’s appeal to avoid over-complication – children need opportunities for play and the chance to socialize with similarly aged children.
Continuity, stability and continuing routines and not bureaucracy, barriers and formal interventions.