The “Day Center for Counseling and Support for Parents and Children in Iasi” provides recovery services for the disabled children and their family: speech therapy, cognitive stimulation, behavioral therapy and play therapy, as well as recreational activities, socialization and individual and group counseling. The objectives pursued are: increasing the degree of recovery; improving the quality of life; adjustment and integration in a group; reducing absenteeism and the risk of school dropout; improving social behavior, in order to integrate and to reduce the risk of separation from the family.
The services offered within the center can be accessed directly, by request from the family, as well as by referral from DGASPC Iași, the Complex Child Assessment Service. In the process of providing services, the center team coordinates its efforts with the social service in the community for obtaining clarifying information about the child and the family, for monitoring the intervention, but also for carrying out joint support actions.
The approach is based on case management. Each child benefits from a personalized program of intervention and regular monitoring. Based on the needs assessment in the psycho-socio-familial context, concrete actions are established to achieve the objectives formulated by specialists.
The duration of therapies varies, depending on the needs of each child, from 30 minutes to an hour and a half per session. Children are grouped into activities according to needs and developmental goals, regardless of chronological age. Each year, there are an average of 10 volunteers per year who contribute to the center's activities, high school students and university students at the Faculty of Psychology and Social Work.
In groups of 3-4 children, children participate in activities for the development of independent living skills (such as the ability to relate with others) and learn rules of conduct, such as waiting their turn or sharing things with colleagues. Examples of such activities are crafting workshops or cooking workshops.
Within some projects, partnerships were made with theatre troupes and children were involved in sensory and emotional stimulation workshops, through which they learned to recognize their emotions and were supported to increase their self-esteem. For relaxation and socializing, horseback riding trips or excursions were organized (for example, in the park “Arca lui Noe” in Iași), where the children learned to feed the animals and interact with them and they relaxed in playgrounds specially designed for such activities. Children who go to school are supported with school supplies. Occasionally, children's families receive food and hygiene products.
Complementary to the direct intervention on the child, the center organizes activities aimed at the whole family, in order to increase the degree of understanding and management of the developmental needs of disabled children. At the center, parents are involved in therapies to learn how to continue the techniques practiced at the center at home, discussing concrete situations they encounter in daily life, related to, for example, management of moments of anger or how children can learn rules of behavior.
Depending on the assessment of family dynamics and concrete needs, parents benefit from individual psycho-social counseling sessions, support groups and parental education programs. The topics addressed are established according to the needs and desires of parents, expressed through a questionnaire. Over time, other specialists were invited to speak at these meetings, such as an allergist, a dentist, a nutritionist, a lawyer, and a sex education specialist. Meetings have also been organized for mothers who are victims of domestic violence, in order to identify resources that can help them overcome such situations. The meetings take place in a relaxing setting, with the role of increasing the feeling of belonging and encouraging the exchange of experiences and resources between parents. Within the center, group counseling services are offered to siblings of disabled children, by which the staff aims to increase self-esteem and increase the degree of acceptance and understanding of the needs of disabled children.
Through social counseling activities, parents are guided and supported to access the benefits to which they are entitled and are constantly informed about legislative changes.
In relation to schools, teachers are involved in activities aimed at transfer of methods and practices of working with the disabled child, at increasing the level of tolerance in the classroom and at stimulating school interaction between typical children and disabled children.
“Personally, it helped me a lot, because when I got there, my child was already 5 years old, he did not even know how to sit at the table, even if he had already done a year of therapy elsewhere. After a month of therapy, he started making sounds here, given that he had not spoken before. He had begun to say syllables, and little by little he began to speak.” (Parent of a beneficiary child)
“The center has withstood the pandemic very well, we have had people who have known us for so many years, they know they can trust us and they have continued to support our program. During this period I wrote 2 projects, which were approved. We have started offering online services, we found sponsors who helped us support families who did not have the necessary technology. After all, if there is motivation from the team, then this program will withstand such shocks.” (Representative of the Bethany Social Services Foundation)
During the period January 2019-January 2020:
− 57 children benefited from a personalized intervention program and participated in individual therapy activities.
− 32 children participated in group therapy activities, and 21 children were psychologically evaluated.
− 18 parents benefited from psycho-social evaluation, and 49 parents participated in psychological counseling sessions.
− 32 parents and 14 siblings participated in support groups, and 40 parents participated in the parenting education program.
− 55 parents received social counseling.
− Five special events for children were organized (games and recreational activities on June 1st, Christmas Campaign, two shows for children – “Gașca Zurli” and “Luceafarul” Theatre) and events for parents, on the occasion of March 8.
Partnerships with the family, educational institutions and local authorities are extremely important. They are the key to the success of this intervention.
“The main lesson learned comes from families who have managed to see that they can more easily overcome the problem of disability and isolation when they are joined by people who believe in their own strength.” (Representative of the Bethany Social Services Foundation)