Korosten Became More Friendly to Children with Disabilities
When Svitlana, a woman from Korosten, a small town in the Zhytomyr region, gave birth to her second child, she could not even imagine troubles awaiting for her family. Everything seemed great during the first several months after birth – nothing but routine care for a newborn. But one day things changed dramatically. At first they thought that the baby either had an adverse reaction to vaccination, or just took sick. But the little girl’s condition worsened, and doctors could not determine the cause for quite a while. And when correct diagnosis was finally established, it was too late to use medicinal treatment: an 18-month-old baby had one of her kidneys removed. In the course of her exhausting and grave illness, the girl fell behind other children of her age in overall development; moreover, inappropriate treatment, suggested by the neurologist, further decelerated her development. “She started uttering single-syllable words only at the age of 4”, recalls Svitlana.
The girl’s parents never gave up. They hoped that in addition to home lessons with mom little Tanya would benefit from kindergarten and group classes with other kids. But experience proved that ordinary kindergarten settings did not suit them. “They do not want children like our daughter in kindergartens. Obviously, such kids require greater attention and special methodological approaches, which are non-existent in these establishments”, concluded Svitlana and quit her job in order to care for Tetyanka at home.
Last year, when a rehabilitation centre “Spring of Hope” opened in Korosten, Svitlana was very sceptical about it and was reluctant to go there because of her distressing “kindergarten experience”. But when she finally took Tanya to the centre, she was very impressed: “Our daughter never went anywhere with strangers, but here comes the director of the Centre, takes her by the hand, whispers some words – and Tanya is off to the playroom!” – recalls Svitlana their first visit to the Centre. Now the girl, who will soon turn 6, hurries impatiently to the Centre to see her favourite teachers – something that never happened in kindergarten. “True professionals work in this place: they find approaches to children in need of special attention, and treat them as if these are children of their own. Just in a few days Tanya started showing us what she had learned” – Svitlana was astonished by the results of her daughter’s learning in the centre. Moreover, having found people whom she could entrust her daughter, the woman returned to work.
Opportunities for the development of children with special needs in such towns as Korosten are very limited. As a result, children are deprived of modern rehabilitation methodologies and techniques. Situation analysis in the community revealed the growth of child traumatism and disability rates, while congenital developmental defects was the main cause of children’s disabilities. About thirty per cent of young residents of Korosten are in need of social, psychological and medical/pedagogical rehabilitation that the city could not offer until recently.
In 2010 Korosten became one of Ukrainian municipalities to join the Child Friendly Cities Initiative (CFC), launched by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). Establishment of the centre offering rehabilitation services, based on modern scientific developments, for children with disabilities and their parents – including early identification of disability – was one of the main objectives of Korosten’s CFC Strategy.
Recently the “Spring of Hope” centre received separate building (until then all activities were carried out in rented premises at the local resort). With the support of local authorities and several Ukrainian and international NGOs, the centre repaired its premises and procured necessary equipment. On October 14 renovated centre welcomed its little clients. Currently 15 children with special needs undergo rehabilitation in the facility, but shortly their number will increase to 30. The centre has three departments:
Additionally, the centre runs counselling service for parents assigning different specialists to provide specific medical, psychological and social assistance to families; the service also develops information materials and recommendations for parents. Similar counselling service functions at the maternity to ensure early rehabilitation in cases of congenital pathologies in newborns.
As a result of the CFC Strategy implementation, families with children with disabilities have access to medical and social rehabilitation, as well as to legal, psychological and social counselling and practical assistance; in general terms, the city became more friendly to its little citizens suffering from serious diseases.
Activities within the framework of CFC Initiative represent practical implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child at the municipal level under the leadership of local governments and with involvement of children themselves. Nonetheless, the government alone cannot build a child friendly city. Therefore, it requires partnership and cooperation with children, their parents and all those responsible for children’s fate and future. To date 17 Ukrainian cities have joined the Child Friendly Cities Initiative.
Globally there are close to 900 municipalities striving to become child-friendly. Child friendly cities are being built in 11 countries of Africa, 11 countries in Americas, 11 Asian nations, in 23 European states, and in 3 countries of Oceania. CFC Initiative is the most widespread in Europe, particularly in France (134 cities), Italy (111 cities), and Spain (49 cities).