Mrs. Emily Vargas Baron – director of RISE Institute, Washington, and leading expert and researcher in the field of early childhood intervention, visited Bulgaria for conducting the needs assessment of existing legal and policy framework in the area of early childhood intervention, outlining the suggestions and recommendations for improvement, sustainability and quality of services for early intervention. D-r Baron visited early childhood intervention services, delivered by the nongovernmental organizations and in the frame of the project: “Services for early childhood development” – Complex for integrated social services for children and families, supported by European Social Fund, under the Operational Program “Human Resources Development”.
The Center for Community Support in Sofia, For Our Children Foundation, Our Premature Babies Foundation, Karin Dom Foundation in Varna and Child and Space Association and Equilibrium Association in Ruse were visited. During the visits were organized meetings with parents of children with disabilities or delays in development. D-r Baron also met representatives of local authorities and all stakeholders in Varna and Ruse towns.
D-r Emily Vargas Baron conducted a meetings with representatives of all relevant state authorities: Mrs. Rositsa Dimitrova, Deputy-minister of labour and social policy, Agency for Social Assistance, State Agency for Child Protection. During the meeting the main priorities of Ministry of Labor and Social Policy were presented as development of a National Strategy for Early Childhood Development, elaboration of new Social Services Act and development of a new Child And Families Act, upgrading the existing services as Centers for Community Support, Centers for social rehabilitation and integration and Daily Centers for children with disabilities which should transfer in complexes centers for integrated health and social and educational support for children and families.
Meetings with Mr. Denitsa Sacheva, Deputy-minister of education and science, with Mrs. Maya Manolova, Ombudsman of Republic of Bulgaria, and experts from the administration, with representatives from the Committee of Education and Science, National Assembly, were conducted. Also, D-r Baron met representatives from National Association of Municipalizes in Republic of Bulgaria from Stara Zagora, Burgas, Veliko Turnovo, Vratsa, as well as representatives from UNICEF, OAK Foundation, World Bank, Trust for Social Achievement, Bulgarian Pediatric Association.
D-R Emily Vargas Baron assessed the existing services for the early age at the municipal and regional level, as well as the development needs of existing and missing services, such as patronage care and others with an enhanced focus on mobility and home visits to help families with children at early age. Also during the meetings with all the representatives of local authorities and service providers an emphasis was placed on the need of specialties at the universities, related to early childhood intervention and early childhood development.
The conducting of needs assessment of the legal and strategic framework of the early childhood intervention in the country, the suggestions and recommendations for improvement for achieving sustainability and quality of services for ECI are the main activities of the project, implemented by the National Network for Children – Putting the puzzle together – sustainability of family-oriented approach and early intervention in Bulgaria”, supported by the Early Childhood Programme (ECP) of the Open Society Foundations (OSF).
The project aims to mobilize efforts and resources of NGOs, international organisations, donors, local and national authorities and other stakeholders working on ECI and unite them in a common advocacy and communication strategy related to ECI policy and legal regulation in Bulgaria. As a result, the key stakeholders should have a common understanding of family-oriented approach and ECI and a common vision for regulations. The key policy documents that should be developed such as the National Strategy for the Child and Family, the multi-sectoral ECD strategy and the Social Services Act will have references to family-oriented approach and ECI.
The needs assessment and the outlined recommendations and options for establishment of a national system for early childhood intervention will be discussed and validated from all stakeholders on a specialized round table in June, 2018.