Children’s lives transformed thanks to support from specialists
After six months of working with early childhood intervention specialists, Liudmila has learned how to manage her daughter’s developmental delay
Earlier this year, Liudmila began to worry about her 2-year-old daughter, Veronika.
"I started thinking that she has developmental delay as our son Tymur, her twin, was further ahead,” says Liudmila, who lives in Kyiv, Ukraine. “Veronika didn't make a pointing gesture, she didn't look me in the eye. And many other factors made me worried.”
Concerned, she and her husband searched for specialists who could assess their child's needs and provide guidance. They discovered the District Center of Complex Rehabilitation of Children and Youth with Disabilities in Kyiv, which offers early childhood intervention services.
The early childhood intervention service is recommended for families with children aged 0 to 4 years, either when a child is diagnosed with a developmental delay or disability, or when specialists identify a high risk of such disabilities. The service can potentially prevent disability and avoid institutional care. The early childhood intervention team is multidisciplinary, and may include specialists from the education, social protection and health sectors.
"It's crucial that early childhood intervention is family-oriented,” says Nataliia Datchenko, a Child Protection Specialist working with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). “It is based on cooperation with parents, normalisation of the family's life, and is provided outside institutions, in the child's natural environment, as specialists come to the family's home or playground to help the child and parents adapt to their environment."
For the last six months, Liudmila, her husband and both of their children have been working with early childhood intervention specialists from the centre.
Although at first she worried, now Liudmila has growing confidence and knowledge of early childhood intervention, thanks to the support she received from the centre's specialists.
"We have goals written on paper,” says Liudmila. “We work with the children according to the recommendations of the centre’s specialists, and almost every week we see positive changes. We have probably achieved 80 percent of the goals we set at the beginning."
"After working with this family, we observed significant growth of their skills and their development is relevant to their opportunities,” says Anastasiia Vynohradna, Head of the Early Intervention Department of the District Center of Complex Rehabilitation of Children and Youth with Disabilities in Kyiv. “Veronika started looking into people’s eyes – first for a short time and then longer. And Tymur started talking more.”
According to Natalia Datchenko, the ongoing war in Ukraine means that parents often feel exhausted and live with high levels of stress, which also affects their children. This makes the support from the centre more important than ever.
"It is crucial to support and educate parents so that they can take care of their children and not forget to take care of themselves," says Datchenko.
Early childhood intervention can be critical for a child's future, since it is the first four years that lays the foundation for their development.
Early childhood intervention services encompass supporting families raising children with developmental delays, helping families navigate crisis situations, fostering essential life skills in children, and enhancing their interaction with family and society members.
UNICEF has been committed to advancing this service in Ukraine for several years, collaborating with the government, communities and public authorities that prioritise its implementation. Depending on the community, the service can be provided by various institutions, including children's hospitals, kindergartens and rehabilitation centres. Families can contact their local social services to enquire about availability.
In 2023, UNICEF, along with its partners, trained 16 interdisciplinary early childhood intervention teams across different regions of Ukraine. The project is implemented with the financial support of the German Government's Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) through the KfW Development Bank.