On 16th March we celebrate the International day of social work, and we want to share the challenges that our workers faced in 2020. The year was full of changes, worries, but with success and many nice moments.
Congratulations to our wonderful colleagues on the International day of social work and we wish them to be dedicated as always and to achieve much more success in this profession dedicated to others. Dear girls, be always supportive, believe in success, and be radiant! Congratulations also to everyone whose vocation and cause is social work!
Our colleagues will tell you what the challenges were in the social work for social workers in Karin Dom during last year:
Tania Doncheva, a social worker in Karin Dom
Over the past year, given the current situation in the country, we have encountered many difficulties in our work. Everyday life of each of us has changed, as well as the families we work with. The only way to communicate with parents was online or by phone, this was new and strange for all of us! Many questions arose: Will we manage? Is our work effective?
As well as a challenge for the family itself, how can we be useful to the child, and is there any progress in his development from our virtual work?
It took time to get used to the situation and move to a new mode of work, but after intensive conversations, a trusting relationship was established between the family, the social worker, and the therapists working with the child. The work with the child started to happen, new networks for communication with the family were opened and the therapy of the child was beneficial despite the situation. Talks with parents took place, consultations continued “almost” as before. The connection with the child protection department and other social services was also going on! We are all used to the new way of life!
Iliana Dimitrova, a social worker in Karin Dom
A different year! A year of fear from the unknown, from and for our physical survival! A year of a new reality! Online reality! But also a year of new opportunities!
The year began promisingly with one unique opportunity – to see on the spot how inclusive education works in Iceland. An extremely different point of view of social work. From our meeting with a representative of the Ministry and specialists from the National Diagnostic Center to an endocrinologist at the Specialized Children’s Hospital in Reykjavik, we received information on how this complex mechanism can be assembled and work as a whole on behalf of children and their parents. Every kindergarten, every school was a step, a step towards happier and calmer children. Children accepted and loved. Each is wonderful in its diversity and calm because it is accepted as it is – just a child !!! No unnecessary ambitions, just work with each child. Specialized school with an amazing base and children supported at all times. The bare feet of children in kindergartens and schools – “To feel at home” And they felt comfortable at home. It was warm and quiet. Their teachers were reading books while having breakfast. They studied and played! The children cooked, sewed, and created. The contrast between the grayish-white range outside and the warm bright colors and broken shapes inside the buildings. Everything was impressive!
Returning from the Land of Ice I did not expect, no one expected how much our lives will change….
The virus was coming and soon spread in our country. The smiles faded and then hid behind masks! Hugs cooled down, replacing them with distance … How do you build and maintain a trusting relationship with the parents you work with ?! Frequent phone calls, Viber, and messenger gradually replaced the live connection. We looked for and found ways to be useful – with a good word, with guidelines. The drastic changes in the routine were extremely difficult for the children to overcome and a great concern for their parents. They shared their fear, pain, and loneliness … but also the joy of the results achieved. The time spent by parents on their children has led to many positive results. Develop creativity in communication between them. In some cases, it made it easier. Immobilization of children with motor disabilities was one of the most difficult problems to overcome. The parents followed every direction, but they could not replace the therapist. The parents’ worries about how the monitor session would take place gradually either disappeared or the creativity of the colleagues prevailed and the guidelines for the parents paid off. The children sat and worked, repeated after the therapist, and followed instructions. Parents shared the benefits of home counseling. Some did not want our support. They were busy with the homework of the older sisters and brothers. Many of them worked from home. It was a difficult year for all of us. A year of losses… .. of grief… But also a year in which we did not only survive. We became stronger and bolder in our desires. Let’s defend our positions! Let’s fight together with the parents for better opportunities for all children!
Veselina Tincheva, a social worker in Karin Dom
The period when I did not meet face to face with my parents and colleagues, the change in communication and the conduct of normal activities, was challenging, especially in the beginning. Everything I did “live” as a social worker, namely conversations, consultations, training, parent meetings, team meetings, and workshops, went online. I lacked the form and freedom in our usual communication, but I quickly found the advantages and good opportunities together with my colleagues.
Phone conversations with parents can last long enough to exchange information, refer to services and specialists, understand the current family situation, and announce upcoming events. In working meetings through all online channels, together with fellow therapists and parents, we participate in the discussion of the therapeutic process, and family goals, help resolve challenging situations in the child’s kindergarten and discuss concerns and successes with parents.
It is easier when the parents have already come with their children for therapy at Karin Dom before the anti-epidemic measures and restrictions. We have built trust, and partnerships, we have made some progress in the child’s development, and we have a direction for the next small steps. Parents are more informed about their children’s rights, they know the organizations and professionals they can turn to in different circumstances, and they share and communicate freely in formal and informal parent groups. But when it comes to families whose children are treated in the new environment, where parents cannot enter the main building, the physical involvement of the parents and their idea of what exactly is happening in the room is somewhat limited. Namely, how the child’s communication is stimulated, how he positions himself, with what materials, and how he plays in order to develop his skills, to progress, and to develop. Here again, through online meetings with parents, therapists consult, demonstrate, and discuss.
We give families the opportunity to participate in training on topics that would enrich them as knowledge and ideas for stimulating child development, everyday skills, and advocacy. Many of them are involved and this, in fact, turns out to be easier because they can do it from work or from home. They received invitations for holidays and workshops for parents and children, in which they participated through the screens of their computers and phones.
A challenge is when some parents are unwilling or have a reason not to use the various opportunities for online meetings and communication.
It is also a challenge when parents insist only on live therapy sessions and refuse online consultations.
At the moment our role is to discuss with parents what are the priorities of the family and what are the benefits for the child and the family from participating in online consultations.
Feedback from online surveys of families gives us clarity about the understanding, position, and attitude of parents to the therapeutic process, and shares ideas and opinions about the projects, groups, and pieces of training in which they participate.
Boryana Yaneva, a social worker in Karin Dom
They say that social work is not a profession but a vocation. That it is not the people who choose it, but it chooses them. There is no university for this job that will teach you how to be a real social worker. I can boldly define the profession of a social worker as my vocation. In my opinion, social work is one of the most humane professions, because it allows for equality between people, and more specifically for disadvantaged people, and also to make the world a slightly better place to live. I define it as my vocation, because this is exactly what I feel and that I could cope with the challenges that the profession could offer me. Every day is so different. It touches deep in the heart and soul. The basis of social work is the contact with people, conversations, and meetings with them. In 2020, social workers were exposed to many new challenges and I needed to quickly adapt to new working conditions. Online work at home has become my daily routine. Suddenly, the contact with the people I worked with began to take place through the computer and the telephone. I felt that I missed live contact with them, it was difficult for me to feel their emotion during a telephone conversation, and I could not read on their faces what they felt. I missed our meetings in the yard of Karin Dom or the corridors. Our work with documents was also difficult (they are part of our profession). The other main thing that was a challenge for me was not being with my colleagues at work. For our profession, in addition to humanity, emotion towards people, empathy, and understanding, you must have another basic quality and that is teamwork. That’s why it was difficult for me not to see my colleagues live and to share everything with them at the moment. But we social workers are adaptable, so I am grateful for the challenges of this ‘strange year’ and thank my colleagues and the whole team for the support, dedication, and strength I felt during this year.
Challenges happen to enable us to react in a different way than usual, to look for solutions, and to develop.
What our colleagues have shared is one of the reasons we received the European Economic and Social Committee’s (EESC) award – the European Solidarity Award! The award was given to Karin Dom for our efforts to provide our services online and to support parents in continuing their children’s therapy at home during the COVID-19 pandemic. We are very proud of you, our dear colleagues!
Строим новия терапевтичен и образователен комплекс във Варна