Discussion in Kyustendil on Development of Community Centers as Comprehensive Service and Integrated Approach
On November 10, 2015, in the Municipality of Kyustendil, a meeting on the “Development of community centers as comprehensive service and an integrated approach”, organized by National Alliance for Social Responsibility (NASO) and in partnership with the Municipality of Kyustendil, was held. The aim of the meeting was to present the evolvement of services for early childhood development as an effective, qualitative and accessible support for children and their families. The participants were welcomed by Radostina Vasseva, Director of the Health Care, Social Activities and Housing Policies Department, and Georgi Georgiev, President of NASO, whereby the focus was set on the good partnership between NASO and the Municipality of Kyustendil as well as on the need of such occasions, during which good practices and solutions to problems were presented.
Within the presentational part of the event, the results of a social integration project were presented, which was implemented with the support of the World Bank, amounting to more than 61 Million BGN. 66 municipalities were funded under the project, whereby a network of integrated services for early childhood development was established aiming at the creation of an innovative and intersectoral model for support to families and children at an early age. The newly developed services are related to investments in early childhood development, including early childhood prevention of risks, better inclusion of children in the education system, improvement of the access to health care services, enhancement of the family environment, etc. The experience in developing a network of integrated services was presented by the Municipalities of Kyustendil and Dupnica, For Our Children Foundation and Health and Social Development Foundation. The community centers in Kyustendil and Dupnica are oriented towards flexible, integrated services providing mobile social and health care services for early intervention in the community, such as parents’ counseling, health care counseling, training of parents, rehabilitation, counseling by a speech therapist, activities for developing the potential of children, etc. The early childhood intervention model “For our children” is aimed at a target group of children at the age between 0-3 years (born prematurely, with disabilities or in a risk of becoming disabled, with delays or deviations in their development) and their families. The service is supposed to enable the family to support the child’s development on its own, and it is focused on the first three years of the child’s life as, according to the experts, this is a crucial period characterized by a fast development of the brain and its functions. The comprehensive model developed by the Health and Social Development Foundation is focused on the most important periods of a person’s development and aims to provide a successful integration in the education system as well as in the open labor market. Health and Social Development Foundation is in charge of the community centers in Sofia and Kyustendil.
During the active and fruitful discussion in the second part of the meeting, a number of questions were raised, among which the sustainable funding of the project within the Human Resources Development Operational Program was mostly commented on. Vera Angelova, Director of the Early Childhood Development Program of UNICEF – Bulgaria, stated that investing in early childhood development should become a national priority, whereby national, integrated policies oriented towards the children’s needs and their families should be developed. Other conclusions made were related to the need of a comprehensive approach for better inclusion of children in the education system, the enhancement of the access to health care services, the improvement of the family environment, etc.