For Our Children Foundation is a Bulgarian non-government organization which has been supporting the vulnerable children and their families since 1992. For Our Children is an inheritor of the British human rights organizations European Children’s Trust, Christian Children’s Fund and Every Child. With its international experience and qualified expertise, the organization applies for the first time at national level the support for parents for prevention of children abandonment, foster care and creates the first municipal teams of social workers for child protection. For more than 26 years now, For Our Children Foundation has been a standard for qualified social work, works for its integration in the state policy for child protection and for the increase of the system’s capacity.
Great Britain Concerned about the Bulgarian Children
- Slight democratic changes have just started in Bulgaria. The Bulgarian children, deprived of parental cares grow up in social institutions and the social attitude towards lonely parents continue to be highly critical. In Bulgaria, there is the apprehension that the state can be a good parent. And that children deprivation in homes for orphans is for children’s good. At the same time, the British organization Christian Children’s Fund of Great Britain is highly concerned for the massive poverty millions of Bulgarians live in. Thousands of Bulgarian children grow up in hunger and poverty in social institutions. The Christian Children’s Fund starts a humanitarian program in Bulgaria as it helps poor families and social institutions with basic food products and donations. That is how the history of the British support for child care in our country begins.
Humanitarian Care for the Children in Social Institutions
- 37000 Bulgarian children live in homes for babies, homes for children, institutions for children with disabilities, reformatory schools. Most of the homes for children are managed as hospitals – nearly 93% of the employees are doctors or nurses. A quality analysis of the care for Bulgarian children, conducted by The Christian Children`s Fund of Great Britain, states that there is no state policy and the responsibilities of the ministries are not focused. Therefore, the organization continues to realize humanitarian programs directed towards the poorest children in some municipalities, but starts planning a long-lasting investment, which will lead to a full change in the state attitude towards the children. At the same time, in Sofia, Plovdiv and Velingrad the British specialists help children in homes – with consultations, food, as well as with educational courses outside of the homes for orphans, professional orientation, birthday celebrations, activities stimulating the integration of the abandoned children in the society.
The Change, which Invests in the Families to Take Care of Their Children
- The British international organization European Children`s Trust starts its work in Bulgaria. The team of the international organization is aware that the humanitarian help is not enough and the efforts of The Christian Children`s Fund have to be awarded. That is why, the team takes as their aim to support Bulgaria in the construction of a new national model, which will change the attitude towards children in poverty and their families and through which the state will effectively support the families at risk and the vulnerable Bulgarian children.
First Foster Families and the First Cases of Prevention of Abandonment in Bulgaria
- After long negotiations and work for the change of thinking about the children, the European Children`s Trust starts working in two Bulgarian municipalities – Haskovo and Plovdiv. In these regions, a main problem is poverty and the existence of homes for children at different age and with different problems. In the two municipalities, under the leadership of the European Children`s Trust the first social workers start working, trained by the organization, who are engaged with the support which prevents the separation of the families and the placement of children in social institutions. Social workers, who introduce the foster care for the first time, start working. The first cases of children who are brought back from the social institutions to their biological families. That is how are launched the qualified social work in support of the family and the real child protection, which are the foundation of the national legislation.
Children`s House – the First Protected Place for Temporary Child Care
2001 г. The model introduced by the European Children`s Trust, which focuses on children`s best interest, states that there are children, who cannot stay permanently with their parents. They need a space for temporary accommodation, which provides family-like environment. At the same time, it is necessary to be made efforts for support of their biological families to change the situation and to take their children back home. Thus, in Komatevo district in Plovdiv, the European Children`s Trust creates The Children`s House – a cozy place, which gives calmness to children from 3 to 7 years, whose only alternative is the social children`s home. The House is in a district among neighbours and the children in the house go to kindergarten r school there and they communicate with their coevals. Social workers take care of the children – they take care for food preparation as well as for everything important for the nippers. Like in a real family. For years, The Children`s House has provided a temporary shelter and care for 24 children at risk, victims of violence or who are taken out of the social children`s home, in preparation home-coming, for adoption or for foster care.
The British Organization “EveryChild” Continues Working in Bulgaria
In 2002, The Christian Children`s Fund of Great Britain and the European Children`s Trust combine in an international scale and create “EveryChild”. The Board of Directors of “EveryChild” makes an important decision – to help the creation and development of the Bulgarian organization, a self-dependent and sustainable in its work with children and their families and the Bulgarian society. Thus, “EveryChild” – Bulgaria remains in Bulgaria and its team is managed by the first CEO Zlatka Mihova, who shares the responsibility with Plamen Dimitrov, Chairman of The Bulgarian Psychological Society and Maxim Behar, Chairman of The Bulgarian Business Leaders Forum. For CEO of EveryChild Foundation is chosen Ivanka Shalapatova, a longstanding employee of the two British organizations.
Support of the Municipalities for Policies for the Children and Families on Regional Level
From 2003 until 2008, more than 380 children do not go to a home for children and nearly 400 children and their parents receive emotional support and help for coping with the difficulties in their everyday life thanks to the support of “EveryChild”, realized in Sofia, Plovdiv, Ruse and Montana. For these five years, our social workers have been working in partnership with the municipalities. The specialists help children and their families, organize various groups for support for children and parents, teach parents certain skills for taking care, provide psychological and law support inform them about their rights. The organization also works with children who are placed in homes for abandoned children in Sofia.
In 2005 and 2006, “EveryChild” manages one of the nine Complexes for social services for children and families – the one in Plovdiv. Just for a year, the social workers and specialists of “EveryChild” in Plovdiv help more than 800 families to take better care of their children despite the poverty or children`s disabilities.
Investment in Education for less Poverty
The children in poor families, including those in gypsy neighbourhoods, who are at risk of abandonment. Children with disabilities in Bulgaria do not have access to education – because of the fact that the majority of the buildings are inaccessible and because most of the teachers are not prepared for work with children with special educational needs.
“EveryChild” realizes that the investment in education decreases poverty and that it is a responsibility of the state to provide education to disabled children.
From 2005 to 2008, “EveryChild” invests in the education of children of gypsy origin in kindergartens and schools in Velingrad and Rakitovo and prepares two kindergartens and a school in Haskovo to accept children with disabilities. “EveryChild” finances loading platforms so that children can have access, it conducts trainings of parents and teachers and gives a pack of proposals for change of the state policy based on the experience.
“EveryChild” becomes “For Our Children”
2007 is key for the development of For Our Children Foundation. In 2006, the British organization “EveryChild” makes the decision to withdraw its support from Bulgaria, because the country has its own policies for protection of the vulnerable children. There is a law basis, and thanks to the financial investment of the British organization, the state already has experience and social practice in prevention of children abandonment, foster care and the educational integration of children with special educational needs. The team of “EveryChild” makes the decision to continue its work as a completely Bulgarian organization – For Our Children, with a Bulgarian team and management.
The Children First – an answer of the crisis in Mogilino and help for Children in need from Montana
In 2007 the British documentary “Bulgaria’s Abandoned Children”, BBC describes the intolerable condition of the children in the home for children in Mogilino. Again, it becomes clear that immediate efforts for taking out the children from these homes and the improvement of the support for children deprived of parental care. For Our Children Foundation, as a part of alliance of non-government organizations and in partnership with UNICEF – Bulgaria supports the efforts of the Agency For Social Assistance for the closure of the home for children. The main goal of the project for the first half of the year was the care for the children and their life to be improved. The team of the foundation recruited specialists – rehabilitation therapists, social workers and children development experts, podiatrists and psychiatrists who make a specialized evaluation of the children in the home. Every child starts to socialize and adapt to a special individual program based on this evaluation. The podiatrists and children development experts are shocked of the situation they see. During their first visit, the experts urgently hospitalize 7 children who are at risk of dying. For half a year they improve the general condition of the children, some of them learn to walk, others hear human speech for the first time or receive individual attention, which takes them out of the long years of loneliness and isolation. The work of the experts contributes children who are treated as immovable to get up of their beds for the first time. In 2007-2008, For Our Children Foundation starts managing a Complex for Social Cares with Children with a Crisis Placement Center. During these two years, more than 150 children, part of which are placed in the Crisis Center, receive emotional and professional social help by the social workers and specialists of the center. A big achievement for the Complex is the recruitment of the first foster parents in North-West Bulgaria.
For More Foster Families and Adopters in Bulgaria
In 2008 and 2009, For Our Children Foundation directs its efforts towards the improvement of foster care in Bulgaria. Not only there are recruitment of foster families, but also the first camp for foster children is provided, as well as a non-stop time telephone line for consultations of foster parents.
In 2009, the team of the foundation organizes a National annual meeting for foster parents, in which take part more than 200 participants – children and youths, foster parents and child protection specialists, as well as representatives of the authorities. On this event, For Our Children Foundation initiates the creation of a foster parents` organization. Thus, for more than 7 years there has been a foster parents` organization – National Association of Foster Care. Since then, the foster care has been a priority of the foundation, which is sustained with the creation of a Foster Care Center. Key for the development of this program priority is the partnership with the leading foster care supplier in UK Core Assets.
Prevention of Child Abandonment Turns into a Public Engagement
From 2009 to 2011, For Our Children Foundation, with the financial support of Nova Television, creates the National Center for Prevention of Abandonment in Bulgaria, who is financed by the state since 2010. The social workers work in the maternity wards in Sofia and Plovdiv where they advise mothers not to abandon their children, as well as in little children`s homes, where they train parents how to take care of their children so they do not go to children`s home. The social workers work on every case in co-operation with family therapists, doctors, rehabilitation therapists, etc. Thanks to the gain experience, in 2011 For Our Children Foundation supports and manages a Community Support Center in the gypsy district Stolipinovo that prevents children abandonment. The previous year, For Our Children Foundation creates four rooms for the mother and the baby. Two of them are in general hospitals “Plovdiv” and “St. Mina”. The other two rooms are in Mall Plovdiv and the zoo in Sofia. The rooms are renovated, furnished and equipped so that they can provide conditions for care and breastfeeding of the baby as well as for family consulting. In 2010, For Our Children Foundation takes part in an international project, leaded by the Institute of Work, Health and Organisations at the University of Nottingham, Great Britain. The Bulgarian participation contributed to the research of the reasons and consequences of children abandonment in Europe, as well as to the good practices which leading to prevention of abandonment.
The World Gathered in Bulgaria to Discuss Foster Care
In 2012, more than 300 foster parents, children and youths under alternative care, scientist and child protection specialists, non-government organization from all over the world take part in the 15th regional conference of the International Foster Care Organization, which is held for the first time in Bulgaria and is organized by For Our Children Foundation. The conference of IFCO is one of the most significant event in the field of foster care and is a big acknowledgement for the Bulgarian professional community, engaged with foster care.
Children`s House – Hope for a Cozy and Safe Childhood
For Our Children Foundation creates Children`s House in 2001 and writes the methodologic and rules for work in a protected space for children. 11 years later, in 2012, completely with individual donations, the Family House for children opens, in which a real family, in a big apartment starts to take care of newborns and little children until there is found a permanent solution for them – adoption or foster care. In December 2014 was turned the first sod of Children`s House in the yard of the home for abandoned children “St. Sofia” Their support for a safe place for children give Sofia Municipality, Dundee Precious Metals Chelopech, etc. Children`s House now welcomes, gives love and sees many vulnerable Bulgarian children off.
Prince Edward and Princess Sophie Destine a Bulgarian Child
In 2013, during the visit of Prince Edward, the youngest son of Queen Elizabeth and his wife Sophie, hosted by For Our Children Foundation, the couple meets foster and biological children and families supported by the foundation. The Prince and the Princess introduce themselves with the achievements of the foundation in the closure of social institutes, they become part of an old Bulgarian tradition called “proshtapulnik” of the little Sashko. The President of Bulgaria Rosen Plevneliev (2012-2017) also attends the special event. During the ceremony, Sashko shows his curiosity of the world and picks up a book with records from the Olympic Games in London in 2012, a gift by Princess Sophie, a xylophones of the President Rosen Plevneliev and a calculator of the foundation`s social workers who have prevented his abandonment.
For Our Children Foundation Closed a Home for Abandoned Babies and Supported the Closer of Two Others
In the end of 2016, the last two children who lived in the Home for socio-medial cares for children “St. Sofia” left the home. Together with the other 19 boys and girls at the age of 0-9, now they live in a safe and cozy family environment. The building will be reconstructed and will be turned into a complex in which rehabilitation therapists, psychologists and social workers will help the families for prevention of children abandonment. In 2015, For Our Children manages a few centers for children support in the former home for babies “St Paraskeva”, and for a year, the support of the social workers and specialists reaches 1000 children. The same year, the Municipality of Plovdiv invites For Our Children for help for the management of a Complex for socio-health services for children and families at the age between 0 and 3 years.