Violence against children is unacceptable wherever it happens! It is absolutely unacceptable when it comes to a place where children and young people live in public care and whose primary task is to provide protection and security!
The infamous Family-type accommodation centre in Gabrovo, with its the violence and inhuman treatment of the children, has again placed on the agenda of our society the topic of deinstitutionalization of children in Bulgaria.
More than seven years ago, the Mogilino case shocked the world with the inhuman living conditions of children shown in a BBC film. This film was a catalyst for the most important social reform in Bulgaria – deinstitutionalization. And if at that time the focus was to build a network of services as an alternative to the old institutions and the children to grow in an environment close to family, now, eight years later, the focus is on what is happening in new services, what is the quality of care and why are there movies that have captured violence against children in these services, are we making enough efforts to prevent the transfer of the old institutional culture to the new environment.
The depictions of violence in the “Hrisanthemas” FTPC are only the result of many reasons and problems for which the Childhood Coalition 2025 together with professionals from other organizations – the National Children’s Network and UNICEF – have not once placed in writing to the ministers of labor and social politics, health and oral participation in different expert groups. There are still many issues left unresolved:
- Inadequate financial standard that cannot meet the specific needs of children and young people; inadequate staff, low skilled and low-paid, who do not receive training and professional support to address the many difficulties in childcare – a matter on which the Ministry of Labor and Social Policy and the Ministry of Finance continue to avoid responsibility year after year .
- Lack of specialization of family-type accommodation centers to meet the specific needs of the different target groups of children and young people with or without disabilities who are accommodated in them;
- Insufficient and ineffective interaction between residential services, the health and education system, the police and other institutions, which leaves the staff with the feeling that the whole responsibility for this public care for children falls on them;
- Lack of continuous quality monitoring to record problems in a timely manner and to help solve said problems; which provides objective evidence of the quality of childcare and ideas on how to increase professional capacity;
These are systemic issues the prosrastination of which puts at risk everything achieved and accounted for by the state and several governments as successes in the process of de-institutionalization of childcare in Bulgaria. For these successes we will not talk in figures, they are on the pages of the ministries – we will quote the feedback that the children have given:
“I am glad that these centers exists. If they were not there, we would be on the street, we would not go to school, we would be cut off from the world. People would not respect us for anything. We would be garbage for them “- a 17 year old girl.
“No, I do not imagine being in another place. Here I feel very good. I said, and I will say it again. I’ve been to many homes and foster families, but not in one of those places has it been better than in our FTAC. Here the attitude, environment, food and everything else is different. “- girl at age 18
For us, the campaign of various people and organizations to question the process of deinstitutionalization or the total denial of what has been achieved so far, which lowers the work of many teams and people, demotivates and is likely to have its negative consequences on the quality of care for children is unacceptable.
We urge all stakeholders to resume the discontinued dialogue in recent years to address these and other specific issues related to the quality of child care in the FTACs and other services.
We are convinced that deinstitutionalization does not end with the closure of old institutions and moving children into a new type of residential care. It is a continuing and complex process that requires clear leadership, a strong engagement of responsible state institutions, involvement of all stakeholders, and a critical public debate based not on political populism, but on a serious and profound discussion of reforms to ensure the well- their families.
Coalition “Childhood 2025”
Bulgarian Association for Persons with Intellectual Disabilities (BAPID)
Bulgarian Association of Clinical Psychologists
Bulgarian Helsinki Committee
Bulgarian Center for Not-for-Profit Law
Know-How Center for Alternative Care for Children, New Bulgarian University
Association for Pedagogical and Social Assistance for Children /APSAC/ FICE-Bulgaria
Association SOS Children’s Villages Bulgaria
De Pasarel Foundation
For Our Children Foundation
Karin Dom Foundation
Foundation “International Social Service-Bulgaria”
Hope and Homes for Children – Branch Bulgaria
Rossitsa Bogalinska-Petrova, member of expert quality
Haralan Alexandrov, member of expert quality