Integrated Community Centers bring a progress in the lives of vulnerable children
Integrated Community Centers, an innovative approach for a better life.
In the Integrated Community Centers, vulnerable children are offered long-term support. They have access to basic services provided by the community team, the social worker, the community health worker and the school counsellor, as well as to specialized services tailored to the needs of the community: doctor, speech therapist, psychologist and physiotherapist.
The integrated community centers are part of the initiative "Romania for every child”. Ensuring social inclusion by breaking the vicious circle of exclusion for Romania's most vulnerable children", which recently celebrated its one-year anniversary.
The programme is developed by UNICEF in Romania in partnership with local and central authorities and is implemented in: Bacău, Colonești, Corbasca and Moinești (Bacău county) and in Brașov.
The members of the community team, who are working for this initiative, identify vulnerable children and their needs with the help of the Aurora platform.
"Since the center opened, children have always wanted to come. But they come in rotation, so that everyone could benefit equally from the services we offer here. At the beginning we met some families who were reluctant because they didn't know what we were doing at the center, but in the meantime, they showed more their interest towards it", says Lăcrămioara Vrîncianu, community health nurse at the Integrated Community Centre in Corbasca, Bacău county.
What activities are organized in the Integrated Community Centre?
Several specialized activities and services have been implemented in the Integrated Community Centre in Corbasca, through an innovative approach in terms of social inclusion.
Vulnerable children come to the center in Corbasca for psychological therapy sessions, for kinesiotherapy treatments, but also for educational and recreational activities, such as dental hygiene workshops, health education courses for children and teenagers, and personal development workshops run by the specialists involved in this programme.
"There are currently around 120 children who come regularly for therapy. However, in addition to these there are other children and parents who come for various problems. Sometimes I also ask the parents to be present at the center, to inform them about their child's progress so far.
The children are aged between 6 to 15 years and present a variety of psychological disorders, such as autism spectrum disorder, mild and moderate mental retardation, receptive and expressive language delay, hyperkinetic syndrome, emotional disorders, behavioral disorders, etc. (...) “We can see the difficulties that both children and parents face", says Marina Balcan, psychologist at the Integrated Community Centre in Corbasca.
This is where the role of the Integrated Community Centre comes in, supporting children and parents through free access to specialized services.
"For some children, counselling and therapy services complement an intervention that takes place in other specialized clinics. But for other children, this was their first contact with a psychologist", says Marina Balcan, pointing to "the importance and necessity of this center".
"I recently received positive feedback from a teacher working with one of the children who started coming to the center in April. He told us that he noticed a change in the child's attitude and behavior, that his pupil is more involved in the classroom activity and more cheerful", continued Marina Balcan.
Like this Integrated Center in Corbasca, there are also similar centers in Colonești, Moinești and Brasov.
Nicoleta, an eight-year-old girl from Colonești, who suffers from spastic tetraparesis and developmental delay, now has access to physiotherapy sessions, essential for her recovery, in the Integrated Community Centre from her community.
"I used to go with her to Bacău", Nicoleta's mother told Horia Tecău, National Ambassador for UNICEF in Romania, confessing that this is the first time that physiotherapy services are so close to home.
Horia Tecău visited the Integrated Community Centre in Colonești in February 2022, to see how the children benefiting from UNICEF programmes.
"I was very excited to meet these wonderful children", said the triple grand slam champion, who supports the initiative and wishes "a Romania for every child".
"I was a child like them too. The opportunities are different. I needed a chance to realize my dream, and these children need opportunities too for leading a normal life and to have the chance to realize their own dream", says Horia Tecău.
UNICEF supports vulnerable children with concrete solutions aimed at improving the accessibility and quality of health, education and social services through Integrated Community Centers. This way, all solutions are in one place, closer to home.
"Romania for every child. Ensuring social inclusion and breaking the vicious circle of exclusion for the most vulnerable children in Romania" and is supported by a €4.2 million grant from Norway through Norwegian Grants under the Local Development Programme administered by the Romanian Social Development Fund.