My visit to Chisinau in Moldova for the Growing Together conference http://easpd.eu/en/growing-together-moldova was both inspiring and thought provoking. The aim of my involvement in the conference was to share my experiences at the Champion Centre as part of my WCMT Fellowship and to meet with fellow Board members of EURLYAID http://www.eurlyaid.eu/.
The central aim of the conference was to bring together various stakeholders in the ECI field, such as family organisations, organisations of persons with disabilities, disability service providers, researchers and policy makers at national and international level in order to take a critical look at the development of national strategies needed to set up quality community-based ECI services both in Western and Central and Eastern European countries. The overall objectives of the conference were:
- Mutual learning and transnational exchange between various stakeholders working in ECI;
- Sharing of innovative methods and models to strengthen the development of sustainable community-based ECI services;
- Identifying barriers in legislation, training of professionals, funding systems and other challenges hindering the provision of quality support in the ECI field.
Before visiting Chisinau I had been unaware of the poverty levels that still remain in some Eastern European countries (upto 25% child poverty overall in Moldova with upto 80% in some areas). Yet there was a sense of hope and willingness amongst the audience. Key messages from speakers were:
- The need to deinstitutionalise ECI services and provide services that are child and family-centred, it is crucial that children remain in their own homes;
- Teams that work in a transciplinary manner are crucial for effective ECI services;
- Provision of ECI services is a basic human right and services should be provided for children with disabilities free of charge, in a location near to their home and in a manner that is relational and reflective;
- Goverments and policy makers have a duty of care to ensure quality and safeguarding regulation;
- Inclusion starts with ECI services;
- Barriers to successful ECI provision include lack of funding, lack of Government acknowledgement of the need for services, societal denial and stigma, lack of information about services for parents, and lack of professional training;
- Professionals who work in ECI services should have the highlest level qualifications (preferably M level), however, they should train and collaborate with paraprofessionals to increase reach of services;
- ECI services should be personalised and relevant to the social-cultural-historical contexts in which children grow and develop;
- International collaboraiton is key.
I am looking forward to building upon my experiences in Chisinau and hope to return one day to be part of the change.