Power of the Family and the Community Programme is planned as an instrument for empowering parents, families and communities so that they have the knowledge, the skills and the capacity to protect their children from violence and neglect and to provide them with opportunities for full development good prospects for their future. It is a continuation and development of a joint three years programme of Tulip Foundation and Oak Foundation aimed at building the capacity of local civil organisations to support children and families so to prevent violence, maltreatment, neglect and placement of children in social institutions.
Thousands of families in Bulgaria are not able to provide their children with opportunities for full development (and early childhood development), due to various reasons - poverty, lack of relevant support and appropriate services, prenatal programmes, local facilities for children with disabilities, day care for children aged 0 to 3/5 years, lack of parenting skills etc. Poverty is often an objective reason for children to lag behind and have limited chances in a long term.
Significant numbers of children are at risk of perpetuate poverty. Paternalistic models are strong which leads to lack of attention to children’s rights, needs and chances for full development. Child marriages, teenage pregnancies, children not going to school looking to look younger children in the family are still practices. The social system is again based on strict regulations, assessment of parental capacity and sanctions, rather than on support and empowerment for children, parents and communities.
From practical work over the last years we learned that there is a space and need for activities for empowerment of parents and families in inclusive, non-stigmatizing, non-disciplining and non-discriminative manner - by providing professional support in all areas of developmental needs of children in a friendly, safe and participative environment. There are organisations that understand these needs and have developed initial practices for empowering children and their families.
Over the last years we witnessed a rapidly growing interest and involvement of fathers and other men in care for children as a result of different types of activities of NGOs targeting men and families. More opportunities for involving boys and men in a participatory manner exist that would contribute to empowerment of children, men, entire families and communities.
Recent researches show that despite of their living conditions, children from disadvantaged communities aged 0 to 5 with access to early childhood development services do catch up to a high degree and compensate differences in cognitive and emotional development due to social deprivation. Early age is most important for development of children, and interventions during it are most effective. We also learned that there are various practical ways for involving parents, extended families and communities in themes and initiatives for children.
The concept is to provide support and empowerment to parents, families and communities. With the realization of the programme we plan to:
- Support and stimulate development of models and practices for empowerment of people and communities;
- Stimulate civil organisations to work with children and families for inclusion and support not only in social services;
- Demonstrate together with our partners working successful practices that might be disseminated around the country;
- Provoke changes in practices and policies for care for children through evidence from evaluated projects of supported organisations;
- Encourage and support civil organisation working with children to understand and include in their daily work the principles: Child rights based, Child participation, Non-discrimination, Best interests of the child, Respecting and building on strengths and Do no harm;
- Contribute to equal opportunities for children from birth to school age and prevention of negative effects of poverty and lack of parenting skills on welfare and educational development of children by providing support for families in underdeveloped communities.
The aims of the programme are:
- To contribute to information, inclusion, empowerment of families, children and communities so to prevent / reduce violence, neglect, not sufficient care and risks for separating children from their families;
- To influence the development of effective practices and policies for care for children, based on evidence from tested and documented working models;
- To stimulate programmes for early childhood development of children from underdeveloped communities by adapting, implementing and documenting pilot models of the Sure Start programme in various municipalities by local organisations.
The expectations towards our partner organisations include that they:
- Have practical experience in working with children and families in the community;
- Apply the following principles in their activities with children:
- Place the interests and the needs of children in the core of their work;
- Listen to children and encourage children participation when this is appropriate;
- Apply the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child;
- Build their activities on the strong sides of children, families and communities;
- Have a commitment for the safety of children they work with;
- Cooperate with institutions in charge with protection of children through advocacy and/or building up their capacity;
- Accept the child as a whole with his/her needs and abilities;
- Have the willingness to learn from their mistakes.