One important area in closing down institutions is to stem the flow of new children entering the institutions and orphanages in the first place.
Many children are abandoned in institutions and so called orphanages, not because they are true orphans, but often because their families are poor and can’t afford to look after their children or because the child has a disability, with parents often told the only hope their child has of getting expensive medical treatment or education is in an institution.
The reality though, is that institutions have a negative impact on children’s health and development and significantly reduces their life chances.
In all countries where Lumos works, we have programmes in place to support struggling parents to keep their children where possible, so they don’t feel that they have to abandon their babies and children to an institution – effectively intercepting the abandonment cycle, by identifying families who need help and offering solutions so parents don’t turn to institutions.
Over the last three years Lumos has prevented more than 300 children in Moldova from being abandoned in institutions. Families identified as likely to abandon their children were assessed to determine what help they needed and then solutions were found. This could be anything from counselling, help mediating relationships in the family, through to support for schooling and in some cases financial support.
In Bulgaria, Lumos has financially helped the General Toshevo municipality to hire a community nurse to make home visits. She will work together with the Child Protection Department, medical and educational professionals. This follows the signing of a Memorandum of Cooperation in October 2013 between Lumos and General Toshevo Municipality. In Varna, Lumos is working at the Maternity Ward at St. Anna Municipal Hospital to prevent the abandonment of new born-babies. Over a ten month period 19 families and their babies were referred to the Early Intervention Service where they were supported in a specialised center or at home by a team of specialists and parents who are experienced in caring for children with special needs.
In the Czech Republic, Lumos has been developing and adapting various tools and training for social workers and other relevant experts to help them strengthen the support available for parents and children so institutionalisation can be avoided. Lumos has helped create comprehensive assessment tools for disabled children so their individual needs can be met, and has held training on the importance of children creating meaningful relationships with caregivers. Lumos is also cooperating with the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs in implementing modern standards of quality to their work.
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