The goal of this program is to prevent and limit the entry of children at risk in the protection system, by providing help and support to their families and the communities they come from. The program has a flexible, integrated and participatory approach, through which families can be offered a variety of support types, depending on their needs.
The cases of children at risk of separation from their families are brought to the attention of HHC most often by DGASPC. They forward to HHC cases of children for whom there are notifications on a possibility or a proposal to take children into the special child protection system. These notifications are usually made by local public authorities, paediatricians, they are cases taken from the local press or at the initiative of DGASPC.
The program team (re-)assesses the case and identifies the risk factors that may lead to a child separation from his/her family, as well as the potential for prevention. Possibilities of intervention from all local stakeholders are analysed: local public authorities, DGASPC, but also the police, the school, health units, plus the support that HHC can offer. Following this assessment, an intervention plan is developed to mitigate or eliminate risk factors, following five dimensions: living conditions, access to economic resources, family and social environment, access to education and access to healthcare. Depending on the needs, the budget, the intervention period — which is, on an average, between 6 and 8 months — and the responsibilities of each party involved, including the family concerned, are set up. Parental involvement throughout the assessment, help and support process is a priority. Parents, but also children, are consulted on support measures and their impact on the family.
The types of support are varied. First, information and counseling services are offered on topics such as: parental responsibilities, sanitization of living spaces, employment, access to social aid, access to healthcare, access to education, behavioral issues, attachment, abuse, neglect or exploitation.
If material needs have a significant impact on a child's situation, the programme also provides material aid — additional food, clothing, footwear, hygiene products, school supplies and leisure resources. Housing costs — identified as urgent needs — are covered: rent, living costs, services and resources for access to utilities. Construction materials are provided to consolidate or sanitize homes and essential items needed to care for breast-fed infants (baby bathtubs, toiletries, layettes, nappies, etc.) are donated. Medical treatments for children in emergency situations are also purchased and specialized medical services are paid for.
Beneficiaries are accompanied and supported through mediation to access various community services or benefits: social aid (day-care centers, counselling centers, nurseries, social canteens, maternity centers, emergency centers, financial benefits or social allowances, such as the guaranteed minimum income, state and complementary allowances, invalidity pensions), educational services; medical services (pharmacies, general medical practitioners or specialized clinics). Where appropriate, beneficiaries are supported to find a job.
The program provides emergency transport services, in particular to facilitate access to healthcare for complex tests or drug treatments. Beneficiaries are helped in their relationships with institutions such as: law courts (for example, in proceedings for a late procurement of identity documents), notary public offices (for example, to make official some declarations), police precincts (for example, to file complaints or statements), hospitals (for example, when children are discharged), schools (for example, for enrolment or abuse complaints).
Children and their families are helped, counseled and accompanied by the team face-to-face, by phone or online.
Families included in the program are monitored through home visits, telephone calls, by contacting other stakeholders who could provide information about the case and through case management meetings with officials from the other services involved in the case handling. Field monitoring is done both through HHC specialists and through the network of local specialists. The results of the intervention and the evolution of the cases are recorded by on-site visits and consulting family members, the community and local authorities. At the end of the intervention period, the case is re-assessed based on a set of 41 outcome indicators and the team determines whether to close the intervention or enlarge it with other measures.
“It's very difficult for us now, too… I am back at the hospital. I can't work, I have a heart disease, I have very high myopia. I came to the hospital with my boy who needed emergency surgery… they tested him for Covid and found him positive, and now we are in a situation again… We're 7 in total. We put all our hope in them. They have also paid many of my bills. So I have had all the support not to abandon my children. They have helped me a lot.” (Beneficiary of the program “Prevention of child separation from his/her family”)
“We make the most of online networks, not just during the pandemic, and we are building a network of specialists in each county who can share their experiences, consult and support each other.” (Representative of the Hope and Homes for Children Foundation)
− 11,658 children and 4,029 nuclear and/or extended families have benefited so far from the services offered through the programme.
− In 90% of cases, by implementing the program, the team managed to keep the child/children in the family.
The partnership with DGASPC developed the program and oriented it precisely on cases that needed it the most, increasing the motivation of many specialists from local and county authorities for prevention operations.
Local authorities and child protection professionals need support and examples as concrete as possible to understand what services need to be developed and what children and families at risk of separation need.
The program provided an intervention that has an integrated and flexible implementation, involving all players who want to support vulnerable children.
“Ana și copiii” Association
Alba Iulia Mayoralty – Directorate for Social Assistance
Peoples Development Foundation Cluj Branch (FDP Cluj)