330 families in the most vulnerable communities are covered and supported by EU ChildGuarantee
A total of 21 additional social workers and assistants were employed with the different social services for prevention and support of children and their families
Over 330 households from the most vulnerable communities that are home to nearly 900 children and adults are covered and supported depending on their needs by the mobile teams under the project for pilot testing of the EU Child Guarantee. A total of 21 additional social workers and assistants were employed with the Community Support Centres and other social services for risk prevention and support of children and families in seven pilot municipalities – Burgas, Kazanlak, Kotel, Sliven, Sredets, Stara Zagora and Tvarditsa.
The mobile teams are already actively working with more than 50 marginalised families with children. Their tasks include visiting the communities for timely identification of children at risk, providing support to families, meeting and working with the social assistance and child protection services on joint cases for integrated support for parents and children and prevention of separation of children from their families.
‘Among the most substantial contributions is the mapping of risks for children and families in the most vulnerable communities – the teams get to the locations, meet the families, going from door to door and visiting every family and every child. They build trust-based relations which helps get information and make all-round evaluation of vulnerability and the best way to support everyone’
-explained Elka Nalbantova, Child Protection expert with the Project Management Unit.
‘It is not realistic to expect that the vulnerable people will learn overnight to come to the Centre, let alone to go to another town or village to seek support. Hence the need for services in the field, on the spot in the home. All newly appointed specialists provide advice, services and support on the spot,’ she added.
Nalbantova also noted that it is not just about supporting the child but rather the family as a whole.
‘We rely a lot on support for the family, so that the child would remain with the family, the objective being to make the child less vulnerable by helping parents take better care. We need to understand what difficulties there are in the way and handle them together’
- explained further the expert.
The new teams have already built good relations with the communities with which they work; the families with children come to recognise them and even ask for them. Some of the newly hired social workers and assistants come from those very communities; this helps build trust between families and social services.
The teams provide information, counselling, referral to services, measures to prevent school drop-out and to facilitate access to health, education and social services and assistance. The objectives include scaling up programmes for prevention of early marriage, for family planning and for prevention of separation of children from their families depending on the specific needs of the community. The social workers from the Child Protection Departments and the social services teams will also be able to get new knowledge and skills for more effective and focused on the outcomes for the child and the family work.
The Managers of Community Support Centres where the new assistants are appointed already see the direct benefits for their work. They believe this would bring the services closer to families in need even in the remotest of areas and will ensure more personalised support for the parents so that they can provide better quality care for their children.
‘This will allow us to clearly identify what the families need, early on detect possible problems, engage more actively in prevention and come up with services that fit even better the type and level of vulnerability. This will also improve the mapping of the family, the environment, the overall situation for more targeted and relevant support,’
- said Maria Gineva, Manager of the Community Support Centre in Kazanlak.
‘We have always needed someone who knows the community better. Now we went exactly for this and appointed the right people – from and in the community, people that are known and already trusted“, she added. (See more feedback from other Managers of Community Support Centres here).
The new social workers are already attending various trainings that would help them in their work and are getting practical advice regarding the first contact with families in the community – initial interaction, building rapport, confidential and trustful relations, for voluntary involvement of families in the support system.
Bulgaria is among the seven EU Member States implementing projects for pilot testing of the EU Child Guarantee, with the support of UNICEF and funding from the European Commission. One of the four model interventions, included in the pilot project, is the provision of outreach child- and family-centred prevention and support services. More information on the pilot project and the other the services is available here.
* The image used is not directly related to the text.
This project is financed by the European Union
© UNICEF-Bulgaria, 2021
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