Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Training Curriculum to Reach over 4,400 Child Service Workers in Ukraine

UKRAINE -- HealthRight’s latest initiative is taking the long term view to bring rights-based health and social services to street and at-risk youth. A new training curriculum, developed by HealthRight and approved in December 2009 by the Ukraine Ministry for Family, Youth and Sports will become the recommended training curriculum for 4,400 staff members of Children’s Services Agencies, Shelters and Socio-Psychological Rehabilitation Centers across the country. In 2010 alone, it will benefit an estimated 17,000 children in shelters and centers, 31,000 children withdrawn from the streets during round-ups and more than 20,000 children removed from at-risk families.

The protection of children is recognized as a national priority in Ukraine, and youth homelessness and neglect have become an increasingly important social issue. Previously, the policy towards child homelessness was limited to the withdrawal of children from the streets and placement into shelters. In the early 2000s, this all changed. The Ukrainian government began to place more importance on the social and psychological needs of homeless and at-risk youth.

This shift in policy focus is also reflected in HealthRight’s new training curriculum. The emphasis of the trainings is placed on skills and information for health and social service professionals who work directly with children, instead of policy makers who make decisions in the interest of children from a distance.

These trainings will help the staff members of various support and service providers advance and modernize their skills and improve coordination among the various governmental agencies and community-based organizations. They will also establish baseline standards for all children’s services. In addition to system strengthening, these trainings will introduce innovative techniques for working with homeless and neglected children, such as art and play therapy.

As one trainer, Zhanna Petrochko, points out, there have been many recent improvements in the social sphere in Ukraine, including an increase in institutions that provide support and services to homeless and at-risk youth. Thus, there are many different people making decisions about the fate of these children. “We value interdepartmental cooperation between all these institutions and departments aimed to help children,” says Ms. Petrochko, “This training curriculum is of great value because for the first time it represents a comprehensive approach to working with children.”

The pilot program of the training curriculum was met with praise, and also raised many new  ideas and questions, such as the ethics surrounding working with children, and alternative therapies for youth. One participant said, “It was a great opportunity for us to raise the level of our skills, to get acquainted with each other, to exchange the experience and knowledge we have learned through our day to day work with children.” Another commented on the benefits of the training: “I am sure that the 32 children with whom I work every day in our shelter will certainly feel the difference in their lives.”

To learn more about HealthRight's work with Street and At-risk Youth in Ukraine, click here.