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Czech Republic

Home-Start's logo

Host Home-Start Czech Republic
Name of Director: Alžběta Candia Munoz
Rubesova 83/10
Prague 10
Czech Republic

Tel: +420 777 801 404, + 420 272 656 031

Email: candia@hostcz.org

http://www.hostcz.org

History

The Czech Republic is slowly beginning to transform care for children and youth at risk, aiming at gradual deinstitutionalisation.

In 2011 in the Czech Republic, the numbers of children placed in:

  1. infant homes: 2077
  2. children’s homes: 5388
  3. educational and diagnostic institutions: 2009 facilities for special needs children: 926
  4. The total is number of children is 10 400!

Often the cause for children being removed from families is because of insufficient work being done by state authorities with socially excluded children and families. In order to fill this gap, in 1997 the Czech Republic started to see NGO’s starting to make an appearance.

Quite unique in the CR is HoSt’s approach based on the British project Home-Start making use of long-term systematic volunteer work and solidarity between parents when an experienced parent helps the less experienced one. The project concentrates on the support of socially disadvantaged families who find themselves in a socially difficult and threatening situation in their natural environment (in their homes). It involves fieldwork with the disadvantaged family, serving preventive and therapeutic purposes. The objective of the project is to strengthen the integrity of the family and help to create a stimulating and harmonious family environment to advance the child’s healthy development.

Under this project we work with families with small children. The families are confronted with a number of serious problems, ranging from problems related to the upbringing of and care for the child, to a stressful housing situation, heavy indebtedness, domestic violence, or some form of addiction, etc. Most of these parents have no experience with a functional family model and have no idea how such a family should function or how to bring up their children.

  1. Number of schemes: 5 (Prague, Brno, Ostrava, Hradec Králové, Liberec)
  2. Number of volunteers: 71
  3. Number of families: 100 families per year (families increasing by 10 – 20 each year)

The key characteristics of our work

The project is unique within the Czech Republic in that it combines mutual parental help in a natural setting with social fieldwork and thus helps to solve complex family problems in a simple way. We are the only organisation in the Czech Republic working in this manner.

Our project responds to the long-term lack of preventive services. Since January 2013 a new amendment to the act of social-legal protection of children has been in force. The amendment changes the implementation of the social-legal protection of children agenda in a significant way, especially by defining social work tools and by introducing quality standards of procedures used by social-legal protection institutions.

Family services are not only insufficient and unevenly distributed in the CzechRepublic regionally (in many regions totally non-existent), but also heterogeneous in terms of quality and form. The system suffers from the long-term absence of preventive and informal help to families. HoSt and its project fills the gap in the system of working with families at risk in a crucial way by supplying, among other things, the dimension of community/human parent-to-parent help and an expertly supervised volunteering service.

Work with families comes in three forms:

  1. Family help provided by trained volunteers.

    The prerequisite for volunteering is personal experience with parenthood. This type of support aims to prevent serious situations which the family could face if unable to function properly, such as the removal of the child and his transfer to institutional care, or other measures following from the Social and Legal Protection of Children Act. The support is based on the principle of friendly help provided by an experienced parent-volunteer to an inexperienced parent-client. We try to motivate the parents to improve their patterns of care for their children in a natural way by establishing contact with a friendly person-volunteer who accompanies the family for a certain period of time and provides advice and guidance.

  2. Family help provided by professional social workers.

    Some families are too demanding or unsuitable for volunteer work. Accordingly they are referred to professional social workers and the service is conceived as classical social fieldwork. Social workers may assist in families to which a volunteer has already been assigned and thus expand the help to these families by steps which exceed the scope of volunteer work.

  3. Family help by specialist therapeutic work with the family:

    As part of the complex approach to family care we may offer the services of a child psychologist, psychotherapist, special education teacher and video training of interaction. Cooperation with the family may take as long as 2 years (in some cases it can be extended).

Host Home-Start Czech Republic

Volunteer work with the family:

A HoSt volunteer for work in target families can only be a person who has sufficient parental experience. The volunteer-parent is important for our work especially because she can appreciate the problems and situations which young and inexperienced parents can find themselves in, She can empathize with their feelings and understand the kind of decisions the parents have to make as part of their bringing up the children and keeping up the household. The volunteers offer their free time and friendship which distinguishes them substantially from professional workers, they offer a social relationship, and they listen, support and help, provide a realistic feed-back, fresh ideas for raising the children and keeping the household functional, among other things.

Volunteer activities in families also require visits on a regular basis and take a long time (up to 2 years). The system is one volunteer per one family.

Before they can start in the families, all volunteers have to go through a preparatory course (30 hours in all). The preparatory course is divided into a practical and a theoretical part. The practical part includes various exercises to practice the necessary skills (communication skills, identification of model situations and model approaches to dealing with particular cases and situations) and to realise the volunteer’s own attitudes, values and prejudices. The theoretical part always concentrates on a specific problem, the type of clients the volunteers are likely to deal with.

The search for, recruitment of and interviewing the persons interested in volunteering is done by project coordinators/social workers (who also prepare questionnaires, conduct interviews and organise the course).

The volunteer often represents the only chance for the clients to have an informal chat, to make small talk, to share their joys and worries, to have new stimuli introduced into their lives and the lives of their children and all this on the basis of a friendly relationship. The element of voluntariness also tends to reinforce the feeling of the parents-clients’ own dignity and self-respect. Hence the work of the volunteer is built on an entirely different framework than that of a professional worker. It is more emotional and authentic. As a result the families are more likely to accept the advice and instructions for the upbringing of their children and the solutions to pressing problems.

he main objective of the volunteers’ work is to teach the parents to cope with everyday parental activities and child care and thus to ensure that the child has a good chance of having a healthy start in life. The volunteer strives to help the less experienced parent to create a healthy and stimulating environment for the child’s development and to teach the parent to be more sensitive to the child’s needs. Help with parenting and child care also includes help with concrete tasks and chores at home, teaching the parents how to spend their free time with the children (how to play with them, etc.) in order to establish as close a link and mutual interaction between the parents and their children.

The subsidiary aims in volunteer work with children and family are often quite specific and "small". Such tasks include, for instance, walking the child to the maternity centre or the kindergarten at least once a week, completing a picture in a colouring book together with the child, reading the child a story or, if required by the child’s condition, taking the child to a speech therapist or child psychologist. These specific and "small" missions may in future result in major and permanent changes in the life of both the child and the parent.

The concrete terms of work with the child are specified in a bilateral contract agreed to by HoSt and the client. For instance, in the contract the mother (parent) will agree

  • to find the time to spend with her child regularly once a week together with the volunteer or on her own (something which had previously never occurred to her and the idea that she should play with the children or the very presence of the children were regarded as a nuisance by her); to take the children to the zoo or to a playground on her own initiative instead of sitting at home and smoking and leaving the children to their own resources, etc.).
  • to take care of the child’s hygiene and to keep the home clean on her own and without help; specifically to ensure that the child is not running around in one change of diapers all day long, to potty train the child and teach him hygiene, to dress the child adequately, etc.
  • to see to it that the child is fed properly, to change the child’s diet gradually from coke, biscuits, instant soups, etc., to fruits, vegetables, yoghurts, etc.
  • to see to it that the child receives specialist care (the speech therapist, child psychologist) if the child’s progress is not adequate to his age; while previously she would not take notice of it, now the volunteer may help her to find a suitable facility and accompany her and the child to the place.
  • During their period of work in the family the volunteers are supervised and guided methodologically by coordinators-social workers who are responsible especially for

    • assessing the situation in the family (the client’s fulfilment of their part of the agreement)
    • guiding, monitoring and supervising the volunteer’s cooperation with the client
    • keeping the client’s file (case records)
    • the screening of clients
    • cooperation with the referring organisations and social and legal protection of the child departments
    • recommending other specialists

    Monitoring volunteer work and the methodological guidance of volunteers includes: Individual consultations with the volunteer – once to twice a week the coordinator-social worker consults with the volunteer on her work in the family.

    • A supervision meeting of the volunteers – once a month an obligatory supervision meeting of the volunteers takes place where the volunteers may discuss and consult on how their work in the families proceeds. Once a year the volunteer is assessed by the coordinator of the project.
    • A survey/monitoring of the volunteers’ work – monitoring consultations are recorded in the form of a synoptic table, the survey is also supplemented by notes from individual consultations with referring organisations and from supervision meetings.

    Funding

    Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, EU funds, Municipal and regional funds, foundations and donors.

    Specific features of the target group:

    The target group in which we specialise is generally very difficult to work with. They are usually families which are at risk due to serious social pathological problems (drugs, domestic violence, etc.). Because of the environment in which the parents themselves grew up (dysfunctional families, children’s homes and diagnostic social-care institutes, etc.), they are often multi-problem families, manipulative and socially maladapted.

    For the purposes of statistical data analysis we divide the clients into three main groups:

    1. Families which at a given period of time are going through a difficult life situation, caused by the departure or demise of one of the parents, by long-term disease, isolation and loneliness, or caused by the fact that the parents are very young or still children themselves and have to take care of their child without the help of a partner, etc.
    2. Families facing social exclusion, or finding themselves in a situation of social exclusion or social disadvantage. They are often multi-problem families whose child/children are under supervision by judicial decree. Their main problems include long-term unemployment, indebtedness, addiction, absence of experience with a functional family environment.
    3. Parents who are receiving their child back into care after the child was previously removed into institutional care or the child returns from substitute family care.

In practice, however, these groups are often not clearly defined and distinguishable and we always take into account the main and prevailing problems.

In our experience it is often the case that the parents would like to take good care of their children (although it may not look that way at first glance), but do not know how, they lack the necessary skills and abilities (intellectual and social, or other).

Our clients often lack the basic social skills and the crucial volitional component (which is manifested by inconsistencies in their approach to upbringing, unresolved personal problems, frequent job changing) which complicates their position when finding a job, dealing with the authorities and establishing social relations in a community. In addition to being incompetent in financial matters, they are helpless when it comes to child care and upbringing. Because of having no experience from their own family they make serious mistakes as parents which can have a long-term impact both on the physical (due to an unsuitable daily regime) and psychological development of their children. Such behaviour towards their children is not intentional, as a rule these parents have no idea at all how to bring up their children properly.

Our services are requested by follow-up care organisations (NGO and institutions concerned with specific social pathology problems or work with families in a different regime) and particularly by social and legal protection of children departments (SLPCDs) who regard out work as highly preventive in situations threatening to develop into serious social complications or as the one of the last possibilities to prevent the removal of the child from the family. For a detailed description of our work and responsibilities see below.

PLANS FOR THE FUTURE

We aim to stabilise our work in all schemes.

We are inventing a new method of working with families via games – playing with families.

We would like to expand this method into all schemes.

Updated: 2nd November 2015


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