In 2010 the Bulgarian government embraced a new vision for the care of orphans and at-risk children. They mandated that the country’s 130 orphanages be shut down by 2025, and began implementing a new system of foster care, reunification with families and small group homes – the model that most developed countries have adopted.
The majority of children living in Bulgaria’s orphanages are Roma, the largest minority group in Bulgaria. Many have been abandoned by families who are unable to care for them. Excluded from society, the children suffer the effects of attachment disorder, stunted growth and developmental delays.
Worldwide Orphans (WWO) has developed early intervention projects in government orphanages across Bulgaria since 2004, with the aim of addressing attachment disorder and developmental delays in institutionalized children. Now we are transitioning these models to communities, as community-based care takes root in Bulgaria’s social services sector.
More than 22 percent of Bulgaria’s population lives below the poverty line, with the majority unemployed or retired. WWO provides a modest stipend to 112 retired women in the local community who work with children individually in 11 residential facilities across the country. Our work provides extra income for these women (whom we call ‘grannies’), while nurturing trust and healthy attachment for the 220 children we serve.
WWO Toy Libraries are a resource for children to become active agents in their own environments through play. WWO has established Toy Libraries in 11 residential homes serving children ages 0 to 7 years and one community day center serving children with special needs. The libraries offer caregivers a way to learn about and support child development through guided play.
BAYLEY III ASSESSMENT PROJECT
WWO has translated Pearson’s Bayley Scales of Infant and Toddler Development, 3rd edition (Bayley-III) into Bulgarian, and we are training psychologists and other professionals from children’s homes and other institutions serving children with special needs to use this tool to identify developmental delays in children ages 0 to 42 months. Results from the Bayley-III ensure that children receive early intervention when needed.
Our Music-in-Motion program guides caregivers and children through a lively and engaging music and movement experience. WWO Music-in-Motion kits consist of four CDs, instruction cards, a parachute and assorted instruments, and we provide training to caregivers on proper use for maximum developmental benefit.
EXPANDING INTO THE COMMUNITY
The Bulgarian government is developing social services with the aim to reintegrate families and prevent abandonment. As institutions close, community centers and day programs open to offer healthcare support groups, cultural events and children’s programming. WWO is applying our models of excellence in orphan care and child development in this new system of social services. In 2012 WWO launched a Toy Library in a community center serving children with special needs and their families. The Toy Library model includes a training curriculum and work trajectory for local community members (those unemployed, retired and even our former grannies) to become community resources in play, child development and caregiver support.
Learn more about One-to-One Program (Granny program)
Learn more about WWO Toy Library Project
Learn more about Global Arts and Music-in-Motion (link to come)