Good Practices Work ”Hands and Heart!” Interview by Yana DOMUSCHIEVA Ivan Stanchov was born on 1 April 1929 in Sofia. He is the grandson of Dimitar Yanev Stanchov, Bulgaria’s Ambassador to the UK, Minister of Foreign Affairs, and Prime Minister. His father, Ivan Dimitrov Stanchov was also a diplomat. The family emigrated to the USA in 1943. There Ivan Stanchov graduated from Georgetown University and founded his own company called Cresta Marketing. In 1990 he returned to Bulgaria following 47 years of exile. He was appointed ambassador to the UK and Ireland. In 1994 he became Foreign Minister, and later foreign policy advisor to presidents Peter Stoyanov and Georgi Parvanov. In 1994, Stanchov established Karine Dom, a daytime rehab and integration centre for children with mental disabilities in his grandfather’s house in Varna. The centre was named after his cousin Karine who was born with cerebral palsy. The centre provides care for more than 100 children every day, and trained professionals encourage these children to grow up with their families and attend normal state schools. Later Stanchov also founded the Gavrosh Association which provides shelter and schooling for homeless children in Varna. - Mr Stanchov, in your opinion, what is it that the state can do to prevent what we saw in the BBC documentary? In order to prevent what was happening, the state should have admitted that the problem was there, and agreed to work on it with Bulgarian and foreign NGOs and voluntary workers. - And who should assume responsibility for what is happening to those children? I think it is more than clear that the control over what is happening to those children, as well as the disrespect for children’s rights and the standards for working with children, lies fully with the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy and the State Agency for Child Protection. - What can be done for them at this point? What needs to be done for those children here and now is what should have been done over the years, and that is to identify each child’s problems and, based on the evaluation, qualified specialists should determine what is best for the child, e.g. adoption, foster care, or small family homes. Obviously the procedure would involve time, expertise, volunteer work, and funds but most of all it would need understanding and support at central level. 1 OBEKTIV
- It would seem that we are trying to grope our way toward the western model where children with disabilities who are not living with their families are being raised in small family homes run by NGOs. What needs to happen to see this model operational in Bulgaria, too? - Work needs to be done at central level for the identification of a clear vision and structure with clear responsibilities for deinstitutionalisation; for the qualification and motivation of those working in the sector of people with disabilities, as well as for the development of sufficient and adequate services using existing good practices; for changing attitudes toward people with disabilities and staff working with them. This is necessary for the prevention of abandoning children in institutions and for the successful leading of children out of existing institutions. - We’ve seen numerous success stories of the children from Karine Dom. How has this been possible? The success of the children who attend our centre is due to the fact that they live in a normal family environment and are provided complex qualified services in accordance with their needs. These include early intervention, individual evaluation, an individual programme for work with each child by a motivated and highly qualified multi-disciplinary team who - quoting a good friend from the UK - ”work hands and heart”. We also work with the children’s families and our team is in constant contact with schools and pre-school institutions, state, regional and local administrations, as well as the media. All this provides for successful inclusion of children and their families in the community, a successful inclusive education of a large number of children, and, subsequently, successful prevention of abandoning to institutions. In the last few years Karine Dom has also operated as a training and resource centre. We have held numerous training sessions on various subjects for professionals working with children with disabilities in social homes and daytime centres throughout Bulgaria, as well as some from FYROM and Montenegro. The whole team at Karine Dom are ready to go on sharing their experience in developing new forms of services for special needs children. - And how is Karine Dom supported? For 14 years now Karine Dom has supported itself through charity. Specific projects have been funded under EU or other donor programmes. Obviously, this isn’t easy but it is a fact. Of course, in the long run and in view of the sustainable development of quality services, state funding will be needed. I hope that now, considering the government’s deinstitutionalisation policy, Karine Dom will be able to apply for funded delegated activities.