National Network for Children started a project “Putting the puzzle together: sustainability of family – oriented approach and early intervention in Bulgaria”, granted by the financial support from “Open Society Institute” Foundation in collaboration with “Early Childhood” Program of “Open Society” Foundations.
The project aims to mobilize the efforts and resources of non-governmental sector, international organizations, donors, national and local authorities and all stakeholders, working the field of early intervention and to unite them in common advocacy and informational strategy, related to policies and legal regulation of early intervention in Bulgaria.
The implementation of the project aims to achieve a common understanding among professionals about the importance and content, the necessary resources, knowledge and skills for applying the family-oriented approach and early intervention, as well as reaching the common vision for the possibilities for their regulation and unification in one direction to develop the care for children in early age.
The project activities involve the participation of all stakeholders – Ministry of Labour and Social Policy, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Education and Science, State Agency for Child Protection, Agency for Social Assistance, members of the Parliament, non-governmental organizations, service providers, etc.
As a result of the project, the family-oriented approach and early intervention are expected to be the basis for the development of key policy documents and legislation such as the National Strategy for the Child and Family, National Strategy for Early Childhood Development and Social Services Act.
The project envisages conducting a needs assessment of the Early Childhood Intervention legal and policy framework in the country, presentations and recommendations for improvement in order to achieve sustainability and quality of early intervention services. The needs assessment and the outlined recommendations will be discussed and validated by the stakeholders at a specially dedicated round table and will be the basis of development of a detailed advocacy and communication strategy. In the frame of the project, two working meetings will be conducted for discussing, tracking and actualization (if necessary) of the implementation of the advocacy and communication strategy. Final conference is planned to present and disseminate the achieved results of the project activities.
Children are still a particularly vulnerable group in terms of the poverty indicators – for 2015 43,7% or 527 000 of children in Bulgaria are at risk of poverty and social exclusion, compared to 26,9 % for the European Union.
Regardless of the number of strategies, programs and other documents related to children and parents, it is a fact that there is no targeted policy for investment in children 0-7 and families in Bulgaria. A number of surveys indicate that investments in children, and in particular in early childhood intervention and development, have much higher public rate of return compared to investments in most of the other areas. This understanding is expressed also by the European Union in the Commission Recommendation of February 2013 ‘Investing in children: breaking the cycle of disadvantage’. The lack of adequate support for parents and families is related to poorer health and educational indicators, higher risk of behavioral and emotional problems in adulthood, substance abuse, criminality and other challenges, each leading to a serious consequences and costs for the society.
In this regard, the main recommendation that National Network for Children addresses is the development of a comprehensive family policy, whit clear objectives, measures and activates and adopting the family-oriented approach in all areas that affect child welfare.