Albania Strengthening family relationships for children in institutional care

Project : Albania 16 Apr 2012 best interests of the child child wellbeing deinstitutionalization reintegration state care homes

2960_dscn7866_small10 April, 2012, Vlore, Albania: While Albania has embarked in the difficult process of de-institutionalization, many children are still placed in residential homes for numerous reasons including extreme poverty, abandonment, neglect, abuse or family breakdowns. There are many children who are not genuine orphans, but have parents who are not able to adequately care for the children, who are then placed in institutionalized childcare facilities. Tdh considers as of paramount importance and systematically advocates that, where possible, children living in residential institutions maintain close contacts with their parents, as it is a child’s right and is essential to their healthy development. In this context a special room was inaugurated on Tuesday, April 10th in the Residential Institution of Vlora, with financial support from Terre des hommes and the generous contribution of its project donors.

“This room will serve as a discrete environment where parents will be able to meet their children to spend quality time and discuss personal family matters, away from any external attraction or disruption,” said Olta Ganaj, the Director of the Vlora RI. “I am profoundly grateful to Terre des hommes, who has been collaborating and supporting us for over a year now in fulfilling this need, and others.”

2957_dscn7904_smallThe necessity for this meeting room was indicated to Terre des hommes by the staff and director of Vlora institution during discussion sessions and focus group meetings organized with the purpose of identifying needs and required support. “Recognizing the adverse impact that institutionalization has on children’s emotional, social and physical development, as well as the crucial role parents play in the well-being and protection of children, we were happy to support this initiative. We see it as a great opportunity which will help to facilitate the process of ‘reintegration with biological families’ of children who have living parents and/or extended family; an ultimate goal for every child,” said Ms. Aida Pambuku, Tdh’s Child and Youth Coordinator, also responsible for the work with residential institutions.

2967_dscn7878_smallThe inauguration ceremony was attended by Tdh staff and local government representatives such as the Director of the Economic Aid and Welfare Sector and the Regional Labour Inspectorate, the Child Protection Unit Worker, the group of volunteers working in the RI of Vlora, professors of the Specialized Pedagogies Department from the “Ismail Qemali” University of Vlora, representatives from local media and a few parents of children living in the residential institution. When asked to share his thoughts on this initiative, Gëzim, the father of two infants living in this institution said: “It’s good. Now I don’t have to meet my girls in the halls or the yard anymore. I can spend time with them. There are also toys and books. Maybe I can play or read to them sometime.”

When not in use for its main purpose, this room will also be available to volunteer group members for conducting one-on-one work or speech and language treatment sessions with individual children. “The outcomes of this initiative are immense and I urge all other institutions to follow in our footsteps,” concluded her speech Ms.Ganaj. A similar initiative is already underway in the RI of Saranda, as per their indicated request. Tdh Albania will support the opening of a meeting room to be used by the institutions’ psychologist or social worker for conducting individual case work with children. [FG]

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