From October 7th to 13th Magdalena Tsoneva, Training and Development Specialist at Karin Dom, visited Kharkiv, Ukraine for the annual conference EurlyAid – European Early Childhood Intervention Association. The founders and board members of this association are proven professionals in their field and the events organized by them are very valuable.
Karin Dom participated in the forum on the invitation of the National Children’s Network, with which we work together on the project “Building a National Early Childhood Intervention System in Bulgaria”. Mila Tashkova, Program Coordinator “Health” and “Early Child Development”, also coordinated this project. This project is funded by the Open Society – London and aims to develop and implement a communication and advocacy campaign to build a National ECI system in our country. Project Consultant is Emily Vargas-Baron from RISE Institute, Washington, an international policy expert in early intervention, and has helped to introduce ECI legislation and systems in many countries around the world. Recently, Emily Baron had a meeting with the Municipality of Varna, as well as with the team of Karin Dom and parents, where she expressed her sincere admiration for the dedication with which our team works.
Before the start of the conference, we had the opportunity to join a seminar on the ECI system in Portugal led by Anna Serrano, EurlyAid President and ECI Professor at the University of Minho, Portugal. ECI started there as a Coimbra project at the end of the 1980s, based on cross-sectoral cooperation between the social, health and education sectors, and this project has influenced the development of ECI throughout the country. The aim of the Coimbra project was to develop a cross-sectoral, multidisciplinary RDI system using existing community resources.
ECI in Portugal is provided for children from 0 to 6 years of age, and after the age of 3 when children enter the kindergarten, services are provided mainly there, on the spot. Local ECI teams are usually located in a health centre. For this, there are two reasons – to be able to fully involve doctors in ECI and because the family doctor is the first professional to whom families turn when they are worried about the child’s development.
Important changes that have occurred in ECI in the past 25 years:
• Collaboration between the different sectors (health, social, educational) and service providers;
• Target group and objectives of ECI;
• Changing concepts;
• From decision-makers (instead of families) to facilitators (facilitating family decision-making);
• From multidisciplinary to transdisciplinary teams;
• From direct services for children to family advisory services;
• Development of training programs and supervision;
• Level of Engagement of Families – Family-centered model;
• Intervention in the natural environment (at home, in the nursery, in the kindergarten).
The Forum also covered the subject of VET as an important prerequisite for quality ECI services. In Portugal, the University of Minho was the first who founded in 2000 a postgraduate qualification program that ends with a Master’s degree in ECI. Currently, there are university programs in many universities that prepare ECI specialists. These programs are organized as a post-graduate qualification and last for 2 years. They are for professionals who already have a speciality and want to build up specialized knowledge such as family-oriented practices, work in trans-disciplinary teams, development and learning in early childhood, etc.
A visit to the Early Intervention Center in Kharkov
Kharkov is the second largest city in Ukraine (1.4 million population) and is a large university centre. There is the first pilot service on ECI in Ukraine, which has been in existence since 2002. Later, three such centres were established, which are working on a family-oriented approach in the children’s natural environment. Team colleagues told us how their program works and shared a case from their practice.
The EurlyAid Annual Conference on theme “Early Childhood Intervention: Changing Paradigms through Engaging Practices with Families, Professionals and Society” was attended by about 300 people from many countries around the world, from almost all continents.
The conference was opened with official greetings and a rich musical and artistic program.
Parents had a strong presence during the conference.
After the great start, there was a joint presentation of 4 women – 2 mothers and 2 professionals who spoke about their personal experience and the way to change the paradigms. The second key presentation was of 2 mothers on “Early Partnership: Nothing for Us Without Us!” – Presentation of the All-Ukrainian Parent Forum “Parents for Early Childhood Intervention”. At the end of this presentation, 6 mothers read their personal experiences and feelings for themselves, their families and their children. Their presentation was very strong, emotional and influential.
In the sessions, Magdalena Tsoneva and Mila Tashkova took part with a presentation on the theme “Bulgarian practices in ECI and the way forward to a national ECI system”.
Mila presented the work of NND and shared several ECI practices in the country (Association “Child and Space”, “For Our Children” Foundation, Association “Equivibrium”, “Our Premature Children” Foundation). Magdalena introduced the practice of Karin Dom. The presentation completed Mila with the steps forward towards building a national ECI system in the country. There were questions and we managed to raise interest among the audience.
The event was a great opportunity for our team to update their knowledge and learn about the successes of the Early Childhood Intervention in the world, to learn about working methods used by colleagues around the world, and share the successes of Karin Dom, which launched the ” Early intervention “already in 2010 which so far has given hundreds of families a chance for a better life.