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7 most common myths about social services in communities

We tend to create myths about what we know very little about. The partners of the project “Jointly. Social services for families in the community” are completing another series of trainings for communities on planning and budgeting of social services. And that is why we have collected the most common myths in the communities and prepared to refute them. It is important that these myths are destroyed in the minds not only of community leaders, but also of the residents themselves, each of us.

Myth 1. Boarding schools cannot be closed because children will be on the street

Boarding schools will not close without proper preparation. Only when the local authorities create appropriate conditions for each child outside the boarding school and there is no need for its existence will the boarding school be closed.

Of course, this is an ambitious task, to achieve which the deinstitutionalization reform, which is based on an individual approach, must be successfully passed. Experts should analyze the situation of each child and his/her family, the reasons for the child’s admission to the boarding school and determine the necessary measures to return the child to his or her family. If this is not possible, options for adoption or placement in family care will be considered.

It should be understood that boarding schools are an outdated and ineffective form of raising children, which is gradually being abandoned by all developed countries.

In addition to the placement of children already in boarding schools, communities should introduce social services for families with children that will prevent social orphanhood (this is when a child is in a boarding school with living parents). This is one of the tasks of the Jointly project.

Myth 2. Children with disabilities cannot go to regular schools, they need separate institutions

It is widely believed that it is in fact a manifestation of stigma and discrimination against people with disabilities, including children with disabilities and their families. Children with disabilities not only can, but have the right to study in regular educational institutions. This will promote the realization of their rights to equal access to educational and other social services, their socialization. Children without disabilities will have additional opportunities to develop important life skills such as respect and support.

Institutions designed to help integrate children often lack the experience, skills and knowledge to provide the necessary educational environment. But this does not mean that an educational institution should deny education to children with disabilities. The educational institution must improve, break down barriers to provide comfortable educational conditions for all children without exception.

To help educational institutions, the training by Jointly project includes measures to overcome stereotypes about vulnerable families. The project also provides methodological support to Inclusive Resource Centers and other social institutions.

Myth 3. Only families with low social status need social services

In fact, every family may need social services. Just as every family can find itself in difficult life circumstances. None of us is safe from sudden changes, which are not always positive. For example, many people who were forcibly displaced and had to turn to the state for help were financially independent and self-sufficient in the military conflict in eastern Ukraine.

Another example is the dynamics of detection of a range of diseases of different types in children over the past few years. It is quite powerful. That is, each family may face a situation where they will need additional financial, informational and organizational support from local and state authorities, as well as residents around. Realizing this, it is important to show solidarity, understanding and support to people who find themselves in a difficult situation.

Myth 4. A small community cannot provide quality social services. They can be obtained only in large cities

In fact, social services already exist / are being implemented in many communities of different sizes, and this practice should be disseminated. After all, social services should be as close as possible to the recipient, which is defined in the legislation of Ukraine.

The Jointly project aimed at creating multifunctional Centers for Social Services in 12 target communities of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts. For this purpose, the premises offered by the communities are being repaired, new services are being created and existing ones are being developed, and equipment is being purchased. Priority, within the framework of the project, are services for families with children.

In addition, work is under way to strengthen the capacity of communities to provide social services – national experts advise local authorities, provide educational activities, provide technical assistance to communities on planning, budgeting, implementation and provision of services, and strengthen cooperation between all agencies involved.

Myth 5. A social worker should teach and control the family

In fact, the role of a community social worker is to support and empower a family in a difficult situation that they cannot overcome on their own.

To do this, the social worker must have the technology of case management, which will help him to assess the needs of the family, provide first aid, advise where to go to address a particular issue. In addition, this specialist can come to the rescue himself, even if he was “not asked”. He will see and respond if the child finds himself in a difficult situation or the family needs support.

Within the framework of the Jointly project, our efforts are aimed at training such specialists in 12 target communities of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts and providing them with the latest case management methods.

Myth 6. There are professional specialists in the boarding school and only there a child with a disability can develop well

We know that professionals are everywhere. In order to strengthen their professionalism, it is needed to have access to new knowledge and new approaches (and here the Jointly project helps), but also the desire to grow, to become a better specialist. And there is a lot that depends on the people themselves, regardless of where they work – in the local council, the center of social services or in a boarding school.

There is always a need for good professionals in the community. A former employee of a boarding school can always find a job in the local government, in a school, in an inclusive resource center. After all, everyone wants to have the best and most dedicated specialists in their teams.

But we must also not forget about children with disabilities who are in boarding schools. In these institutions, not only can they not develop, but they also do not have access to appropriate education and may be subjected to violence. It is worth noting that all children have the right to a family, and experience shows that parental attention is much more important than access to professionals.

Myth 7. There are no more problems for internally displaced persons. 5 years have passed, they have already adapted

If we do not see problems, it does not mean that they do not exist. For example, a large number of people who have been forced to leave their homes live in communities whose outdated infrastructure is barely able to provide social services for people who have always lived in the community and for new residents who have recently moved to the community. This can lead to potential conflict situations in communities. That is why the Jointly project helps to repair and equip social service centers and make them accessible to all residents.

The project is implemented by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and a Consortium of partner organizations with the financial support of the German government and the German Development Bank (KfW).

The Consortium, led by the Ukrainian Child Rights Network, includes the following non-governmental organizations: Mariupol Youth Union, Hope and Homes for Children, Partnership for Every Child, SOS Children’s Villages and Social Synergy.

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