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Good childhood

Mar 19, 2020 at 15:20 • Family and Children

A Masterclass Course organized by the Charitable Foundation of Elena and Gennady Timchenko was taught is Moscow 27-28 February. The masterclass course entitled “A comprehensive approach to ensuring a child’s well-being: practices for providing assistance to children who have suffered a trauma or been living in an abusive environment” was attended by over 90 professionals from 34 Russian states who work with children in biological and foster families, as well as in children’s homes.

The masterclass course attendees discussed aspects of well-being of children who have suffered a trauma — the experience cannot be deleted, but its consequences can be mitigated by offering support the child needs to grow and develop, build relationships, feel good about themselves and be optimistic about the future.

When opening the masterclass course, Elvira Garifulina, head of the Family and Children programme at the Timchenko Foundation, quoted figures from the RF Education Ministry and independent surveys evidencing the relevance of the subject of children’s (in)security. In 2018, there were discovered 1.2 thousand cases of child abuse. Eighty per cent of crimes against children in Russia are committed in the family; half by family members and people close to the child while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The survey also revealed that the No.1 cause of social orphanhood is alcohol abuse by the parents. But only about 16% of children return to their post-crisis families, and their numbers have been decreasing since 2013. And all of the above are traumatic situations that childhood professionals try to prevent and mitigate.

International experience shows that in crises it is important to focus on the needs and well-being of the child: children with baggage must be nursed back to emotional health. Their security blanket is a safe place, even if the children live in a traumatizing environment.

The masterclass course syllabus included three core modules: management of biological families in crisis, support for foster families, and institutionalized child care. What to do in emergencies and life-threatening situations, what actual response procedures are in place, what arrangements are effective for child support and recovery and rehabilitation of families in crisis – this is what the masterclass teachers talked about. Among the hallmarks of the Moscow masterclass course was its focus on practices, first and foremost: the speakers talked not about theory but about the methods and procedures that they use in their activities and that deliver. Also, the masterclasses included Q&A sessions focused on the practices being promoted.

The course provided for third-party experts to be brought in to brainstorm solutions to problem cases. Counselling sessions were offered, where experts reviewed challenges personally experienced by the masterclass course attendees.

The masterclasses in classes in applying case management guidelines, placing children with professional foster families, supporting in-crisis and foster family and using games for child rehabilitation were taught by the Family and Children programme’s affiliated establishments and non-profits. The speakers were both organizations and professionals well-known in the professional community and those who are still relatively unknown but boasts effective practices: representatives from the Dzerzhinsky Lesosibirsk Orphanage KGKU [Krai Publicly Funded State Institution (KPFSI)], Krasnoyarsk Krai, Den Aista NGOOU [Stork Day Novosibirsk City NGO of Adoptive Parents] in Novosibirsk, the Shatalovo Orphanage in Smolensk,the Sunflower parental centre in St Petersburg and others. They talk about trauma and its telltale signs and the effect of a family crisis on children’s psyche. The choice of speakers was determined by validated practices.

Special attention was focused on the importance of using evidence-based practices in the social sphere, particularly in childhood protection. In 2019, in partnership with Evolution and Philanthropy ANO [independent not-for-profit organisation (INO)], other non-profits and MGPPU [Moscow City Psychology and Pedagogics University (MCPPU)], the Timchenko Foundation set up its Database of Evidence-Based Childhood-Related Practices. Last year, 9 child care organizations described their practices and had them validated using the developed Standard. In 2020, the Let’s Go to the Bank programme will remain in place and will offer training to other organizations and invite them to describe their practices.

In order to measure the practical benefits of the masterclasses for professionals and identify the most relevant areas of focus for subsequent masterclass courses, the Timchenko Foundation has organized an interactive survey of the attendees, who shared their opinions of the new experience, ideas and impressions. According to the survey, many attendees said it was their first opportunity to get a closer look precisely at the hands-on experience of their colleagues and review certain methodologies and procedures and to organize their own experiences. Some of the attendees said that they had learned things that they were willing to test or implement back home. Some gave thought to their activities in terms of evidence-based approach and retrospective analysis.

“Unfortunately, I could not take part in all masterclasses because they ran in parallel. But everything was interesting. Thank you very much for the opportunity to get to know the practices of colleagues”, said Irina Shelpakova.

“One needs to meet on a more frequent basis to keep one’s hand in and to compare notes with other regions. Sometimes the homework assigned by the Timchenko Foundation lights a fire under professionals and helps to bring forth new ideas”, Oksana Mikhailova wrote in her entry form.

This time around the masterclass course attendees were also assigned homework as tradition dictates – an essay describing their own best practices, evaluating their standard operating procedures and comparing them with the application cases studied on the masterclass course.