In 2007 Mariana Nikolova took over the position of Executive Director of Karin Dom and for a period of almost 10 years she managed to develop and provide sustainable funding for services for children and families, with one of the priorities being early childhood intervention. In 2011 communicative groups for children with speech problems started. In 2012 in partnership with the Worldwide Foundation for Vulnerable Children, a Toy Library opened. New Playgroups service for children and parents was launched. Trampoline therapy was introduced for children with various special needs. Parent-mediated intervention group started, and communicative groups for children with complex needs were established. The project “Modeling of new services for children with disabilities in Bulgaria” was launched, funded by the Velux Foundations for building and developing the capacity of the Training Center (2013-2016).
In 2009 projects were implemented: “Good practices for early intervention in children with intellectual disabilities – Part II”; upgrading the knowledge and skills of the team of Karin Dom under the project “Montessori therapy for children with special needs”; Training on “Pedagogical methods and approaches to stimulating the development of children with learning difficulties”, introduction to Sensory integration and occupational therapy. 2 specialists attended Introductory course in Bobath therapy in London and Course in Occupational therapy – London.
In 2010 an Early Intervention program was launched with the efforts of the team and the project manager Veselina Vasileva (Development Director), who warmly supported and developed services for the little ones as one of the priorities of Karin Dom.
Karin Dom Foundation has been developing and implementing the Early Intervention Program since September 2010 in partnership with the Municipality of Varna, funded by the Open Society Foundations, Early Childhood Development Program – London. The program was modeled on services in Canada, the United States and Europe. Karin Dom’s program was recognized as a good practice by UNICEF, helping children under 3 to grow up in a safe and supportive family environment and by the European Association of Service Providers for People with Disabilities (EASPD).
By the end of 2019 more than 900 children have been served by Karin Dom ECI program. The main approach used is the family-centred approach, which is innovative for Bulgaria. The focus of the work of the specialists from Karin Dom is not only the child, but also the whole family, which has an active role in the program. Services are usually provided at home to ensure the building of useful functional skills in the daily life of the family. The child and the family are supported by developing his / her strengths so that the parents can have the confidence that they can cope on their own.
The program was initially funded by Open Society, London and Budapest to support families of children with developmental delays and disabilities, and to prevent their abandonment in institutions as part of the deinstitutionalization process that has begun in Bulgaria. The training, led by lecturers-consultants from the Infant Development Program of British Columbia, Canada, was for the entire team of Karin Dom as well as for representatives of Varna Municipality, specialists from the Child Protection Department, Social Directorate, medical professionals.
From the very beginning of the Early Intervention Program, Karin Dom has received support and valuable advice from our longtime consultant Judy Newman, director and co-founder of Early Childhood CARES, an early childhood intervention and special education program from Oregon, USA.
Vesi Vasileva has been actively working on ensuring the sustainability of the Early Intervention Program and its dissemination in Bulgaria. She is also the author of the project for the construction of a new center for therapy of children with special needs at Karin Dom, which was approved for funding by the Velux Foundations and received the support of the Municipality of Varna by providing construction land.
Karin Dom received the Project of the Year 2011 award from Tulip Foundation for the project “Early intervention to prevent the abandonment of children with disabilities.”The aim of the project was to train and support other NGOs to provide ECI services in their communities.
Karin Dom Foundation shares the award with its project partners – the Municipality of Varna, the Department for Child Protection – Varna, the maternity and neonatology wards at SBAGAL “Prof. Dr. Dimitar Stamatov ”and St. Anna Hospital – Varna and Colorful Future Association, uniting for Varna the breastfeeding consultants certified by the National Breastfeeding Committee.
In 2013 the first in Bulgaria Municipal Delegated Activity / ODD / Early Intervention Center started with a capacity of 40 children and families – a partnership between the Municipality of Varna and Karin Dom for providing social services to children with special needs. In 2014-2015, Karin Dom launched introductory and upgrading trainings for Early Intervention Centers at the newly opened Community Centers in the country, which the Ministry of Labor and Social Policy created under the Social Inclusion project. It also developed a Methodology for the Early Intervention service. The centers were built in 46 municipalities in order to support the development of children from 0 to 7 years who had developmental delays and disabilities. More than 300 specialists from the country have been trained.
Karin Dom and Societe Generale Expressbank won the first place in the competition “Project of the Year 2016”. Since the launch of the Support a Family project in 2011, until the end of 2016, Karin Dom and Societe Generale Expressbank project has supported more than 157 children with special needs in Bulgaria. “Support a family” is an exceptional service for families with young children from all over Bulgaria. Existing services for children with special needs and their families are within a particular district or municipality and often for older children. In contrast, the program allows families to benefit from the services and experience of Karin Dom, regardless of which part of the country they come from.
In 2015 the first of its kind Smile, Karin Dom charity festival was organized by a volunteer team led by Justin Boland.
Karin Dom continues the tradition of the festival and its organization with the help of volunteers – professionals in various fields. The festival has been gathering the citizens and guests of Varna for 5 years. With the funds raised from this charity event, Karin Dom managed to finance the therapy of children with complex and intensive support needs.
Karin Dom thanks all international organizations, consultants, trainers, the Municipality of Varna, colleagues and supporters who have provided financial and advisory support for the training and exchange of experience and ideas over the years! With their help we managed to implement and present the Early Childhood Intervention Program on a local, national and international level, as a methodology, sustainability and effectiveness for the youngest children and their families!
We thank all our partners and donors for the open dialogue, mutual support and trust!