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Professional child and family support in Georgia

The Our Home Association, in cooperation with the Georgian Ministry of Health, Labour and Social Affairs and an informal coalition of international and local NGOs including Caritas and the Child and Family Association, organises training, methodological and psychological consultations for services supporting small homes for children in Georgia. These homes, referred to as the Polish model of institutional care, ensure family conditions for raising groups of 10 children. The Our Home Association introduced a method of individual accountability for working with a child and their family. Another project priority is adherence to Georgian standards of caring for children, including actions to reintegrate children with their families.

There are barely 120 social workers dealing with family support in Georgia, there are no professional psychological support services, and subsidies for small forms of institutional care are unusually low. For these reasons, external help is needed to ensure high-quality social services and to provide a model for building a social assistance system based on Georgian resources. The difficult situation in the foster care system in Georgia is further aggravated by the high unemployment rate (exceeding 50 per cent), homelessness, the presence of refugees from Abkhazia and South Ossetia and the large number of street children (estimated at 2,000 in Tbilisi alone). Providing support for staff in the social assistance system and offering them specialist training, consultations and methodological and technical advice is an opportunity to change this situation.

The project was a continuation of actions conducted by the Our Home Association from 2007 through 2013 under projects funded by the Polish Aid development cooperation programme.

Professional child and family support in Georgia

The project was implemented from 1 February to 31 December 2014 throughout all of Georgia, and in particular in Tbilisi, Telavi, Baisubani, Gori, the Mtsheta region, Khashuri, Kutaisi, and Khoni. The project implementing entity is the Our Home Association and the local partners are Caritas Georgia and the Child and Family Association.

The project was a response to the lack of professional services in Georgia supporting children from families in crisis. The direct objective was to improve the efficiency of the foster care system through consultations, training and individual and group advisory services for caregivers at orphanages and social assistance services.

Project beneficiaries were institutional and family foster care specialists: consultants, leaders and caregivers from orphanages, foster caregivers, social workers, representatives of the Ministry of Labour, Health and Social Services and the Social Services Agency, and representatives of NGOs. Indirect beneficiaries consisted of about 200 children from orphanages and 1,000 children from foster families, about 600 foster families, teachers from schools attended by children in foster care, the general population, the local communities where orphanages are located, schools, educational services, health services, the press, and the local and national media.

The project envisages training for educators working in small orphanages (the Child and Family Association has exclusive rights for such training in Georgia), training of Georgian trainers (who will then conduct advanced courses for various groups of specialists), and training in fields where there is a shortage of appropriate specialists in Georgia (e.g. sexual development of children, the effects of sexual abuse, and developmental disorders). The association has also trained and hired a group of psychologists and therapists supporting the institutional foster care system. Moreover, in cooperation with Georgian authorities, the association is working on new regulations and procedures for the programme for foster care wards to gain independence and for a professional family foster care programme.

Professional child and family support in Georgia

The project made it possible to create a qualified group of specialists in the field of foster care. The project implementing entity also examined needs and prepared a programme for recruitment and training of foster families.

A coalition was established to benefit foster care comprised of government organisations, NGOs and commercial foundations. At the same time, a teamwork model was developed for caregivers from orphanages, social workers, and psychologists, which will improve the work in the new forms of social assistance such as orphanages. It was also possible to work out legislative solutions concerning independence of foster care wards.