The Network manages to unite the civil sector for the benefit of children and to be a partner in the work of state institutions
In 2021 we celebrate 15 years since the establishment of the National Network for Children – a unique for Bulgaria association of over 140 supporters and organizations that work for children and families and defend children’s rights.
To unite so many people and organizations around one cause and to keep this coalition active and viable is a remarkable achievement for Bulgaria. The network has consolidated the civil sector and become an equal partner of state institutions in their work for better laws, policies and practices for the child and the family. During these 15 years the organization is also a major analyst of the processes and children’s policies, critic and corrective of the actions of the state.
What we succeeded in together
National Network for Children has made great efforts to take important steps for the benefit of children. Thanks to advocacy and partnership work with the state, positive changes in children’s policies have been achieved:
With the adoption of the Law on Social Services in 2019, the basis for the reform of the social protection system was laid with a focus on the needs and rights of children and their parents. The Network was a key partner in the creation of this important document.
The organizations and experts from the NNC are active participants in the process of Deinstitutionalization in Bulgaria. Since 2010, almost all institutions for children of the old type have been closed. The children in the homes were anonymous and often the change efforts focused on “reforming” and “restructuring” the buildings, without leading to a significant change in the way the children were cared for and lived. The network is actively involved in the development and implementation of the Deinstitutionalization Vision and Action Plan, as a result of which more than 7,000 children have been moved from the old institutions and more than 13,600 other children and their families have been supported to avoid placement in institutions.
Our member organizations work daily in the field and for various advocacy causes. In the last year alone, which was also marked by a severe health crisis, 10,000 professionals from our member organizations supported 140,000 children and 76,000 families.
National Network for Children was one of the leading organizations in the debates and the creation of the Law on Preschool and School Education, which determines the development of nearly a million Bulgarian children. The Law adopted in 2016 contains more than 20 proposals of experts from the Children’s Network and this was a huge step forward in the reform of Bulgarian education.
In 2017, a Mechanism for the Prevention of School Dropout was adopted and the practice of joint work of the institutions on the problem was established – another process in which we participated.
Fifteen years ago, no one had the necessary understanding of juvenile justice, and today there is a commitment from the state to reform in this area. We support the sparing hearing of children and the increase in the number of specialized rooms for this – today the “blue rooms” are already 40.
We have worked actively to ratify the Lanzarote Convention against the Sexual Exploitation of Children. We have created a coalition “Childhood without Violence”, which fights violence in all its forms, advocating for a complete ban on corporal punishment.
We are fighting and we have implemented the amendments to the Law on Radio and Television, which regulate the ethical coverage of children in the media and their protection from harmful content.
Analysis and informing the public
For the last ten years, the Network has been conducting expert monitoring of how the state is fulfilling its commitments to children and families with its independent monitoring report “What is the Average Government Score for Childcare?”. With it we make assessments and recommendations and focus public attention on areas where governments are doing well and those where more needs to be done.
In 15 years, the Web has become a significant and reliable source of information. We have developed our own media, in which we discuss hot issues, talk about children’s rights, present good practices in child care, positive parenting and various forms of support for parents. Every year over a million Bulgarians access the news and information on our website nmd.bg and on social media.
More than 350 children and young people have participated in the activities of the Megaphone youth network. We develop different models for an authentic participation of children and young people by consulting with them and carrying out the key activities of the Network together with them. Through Megaphone, children, young people, professionals and organizations learn about children’s rights, develop communication skills and exercise their right to opinion.
We are often partners in various humanitarian actions that help children and families in need. Last year, the Network joined an initiative to support children and their families affected by Covid-19, as well as social services in difficulty due to lockdowns and restrictions.
At the end of 2020, we created an emergency fund for “Distressed children, families and professionals” with the support of the Kahane Foundation – Switzerland. For 5 months – from December 2020 to April 2021 – we helped 2214 children, 971 families and 786 employees and volunteers. The aid – diapers, food, medicines, PCR tests, protective equipment and other emergency materials, reached 26 settlements across the country, thanks to 43 children’s organizations members of the NNC.
However, we still face many challenges and continue to work to achieve important goals for the benefit of children and families:
We insist on the adoption of a Vision for Family Policy and a National Strategy for the Child – two documents without which the development of children’s policies and comprehensive social protection cannot be complete.
It is imperative to reform the child protection system and to implement a comprehensive family policy in order to break the vicious circle of poverty and social exclusion.
We continue to work for the best health care for children and for a modern National Multidisciplinary Children’s Hospital
We demand a reform of justice for children, which will not treat child offenders as criminals, but they will have the right to support and a chance for integration. This law is important for more than 10,000 children who are affected annually by the outdated Law on Combating Anti-Social Manifestations of Minors.
There is still much to be desired in the process of deinstitutionalization, especially in terms of the quality of services, but here the state must take on its function and role more actively.
We are getting closer to the realization of a dream – to build a center for children’s rights in Bulgaria. We have set a successful start to the ambitious project for the construction of a Children’s House, which will be managed as a social enterprise and will train young people out of care.
The biggest and most difficult task remains the change of attitudes and the acceptance of the child as a person with rights and a member of society.
We are really changing the lives of children and their families and moving society forward, although for many the vast daily work of the member organizations of the Network remains invisible and incomprehensible.
We believe that the change in one child changes Bulgaria and we will continue to work with energy and heart for all Bulgarian children.