Myths about social services for families in communities
"Only disadvantaged families require social services", "Institutions cannot be closed because children will find themselves on the streets" - we have collected the most common myths observed in the communities by trainers of the project “Jointly”
Partners on the “Jointly. Social Services for Families in Communities” project have completed another series of training events for communities on social service planning and budgeting. We have collected the most common myths that the trainers observed in the communities, and have prepared responses to refute them. It is critical that these myths are overcome in the minds not only of community leaders, but also of the residents themselves: every one of us.
Myth 1. Institutions cannot be closed because children will find themselves on the streets
Institutions will not be closed without proper preparation. They will only be closed when the local authorities create appropriate conditions for every child outside the institutions, and there is no need for them.
This is, of course, an ambitious objective that requires de-institutionalization reform using an individual approach to be successfully accomplished. Experts should analyse the situation of each of the children and their families, discover the reasons why each child was placed in the institution, and identify what is need to return the children to their birth families. If this is not possible, options for adoption or placement in family forms of care will be considered.
It should be understood that the institutions are an outdated and inefficient form of child care that is gradually being abandoned by all developed countries in the world.
In addition to providing appropriate arrangements for children who are already residing in institutions, communities should also provide social services for families with children, to prevent them from being placed in institutions while their parents are there. This is one of the objectives of the #Jointly project.
Myth 2. Children with disabilities cannot study in general schools; they require separate institutions
This common opinion is actually a manifestation of stigma and discrimination against persons with disabilities, including children with disabilities and their families. Children with disabilities not only can but also have the right to study in general educational institutions. This will enable them enjoy their rights to equal access to educational and other social services and live in society. For children without disabilities, there will be additional opportunities to develop important life skills, such as respect and support.
Often, institutions designed to assist with the integration of children lack the experience, skills and knowledge to provide the necessary educational environment. But this does not mean that an educational institution should refuse to accept children with learning disabilities. An educational institution must improve and break down barriers to ensure a comfortable educational environment for all children without exception.
To help educational institutions, the # Jointly project provides training to professionals, including sessions to overcome stereotypes about vulnerable families. The project also provides technical support to Inclusive Resource Centres and other social institutions.
Myth 3. Only disadvantaged families require social services
In fact, every family may require social services, as every family can find itself in difficult circumstances. None of us is immune from sudden changes, which are not always positive.
For example, many people who have been internally displaced and forced to seek help from the Government used to be financially independent and self-sufficient before the outbreak of armed conflict in eastern Ukraine.
Another example is the trends in prevalence in children of various diseases over the past few years. This is quite large-scale, and means that every family may face a situation in which it will require additional financial, informational and organizational support from the local and state authorities, as well as from the residents around. While this is being realized, it is critical to show solidarity, understanding and support for people in difficult situations.
Myth 4. A small community cannot provide quality social services. They can only be provided in bigger cities
In fact, many communities of different sizes already have functional social services or have launched programmes for this purpose. This practice should be extended. After all, social services should be as close as possible to the recipient, as required by the national legal framework.
The #Together project aims to establish multifunctional social service centres in 12 target communities in Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts. To this end, community-based facilities are being renovated, new services are being launched, existing facilities are being developed and equipment is being procured. The project focuses on services for families with children.
In addition, efforts are being made to build communities’ capacity to provide social services: national experts offer advice to local authorities, and provide training and technical assistance to communities to plan, budget, implement and deliver services, as well as to enhance the interaction of all the facilities involved.
Myth 5. A social worker should strictly guide and control a family
In fact, the role of a community social worker is to support and empower a family that finds itself in a difficult situation that it cannot overcome on its own.
To do this, a social worker should have case management skills to assess the needs of the family, provide first aid, and refer the family to other service providers. In addition, the specialists can intervene on their own initiative, even if nobody has asked for support. They should be able to identify a child in a difficult situation or a family that requires support, and provide the appropriate response.
As part of the #Jointly project, the lion’s share of our efforts are being invested in providing training to such professionals in 12 target communities in Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts and equipping them with cutting-edge case management techniques.
Myth 6. There are professional specialists in institutions and they are the only places where children with disabilities can develop well
We know that there are good professionals everywhere. To improve their competencies, they need access to new knowledge and new approaches – and this is where the #Together project helps – but also the desire to develop and become better specialists. These are people on which a lot depends, no matter where they work – for local councils, social service centres or online.
A community always requires good specialists. A former institution employee can always find a job at a local authority, a school, or an inclusive resource centre. After all, every organization wants to have the best and most dedicated specialists in its team.
Myth 7. The problems of internally displaced persons are over. After five years, they have already adapted
If we do not see problems, it does not mean that they do not exist. For example, many people who have been forced to leave their homes live in communities where outdated infrastructure is barely able to provide social services both to residents who lived there earlier and to new residents who have moved there more recently. This can potentially provoke conflicts in the communities. For this reason, the #Jointly project helps repair and equip social service centres and make them accessible to all the residents.
The project is being implemented by United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) with the financial support of the German Government and the German Development Bank (KfW).