Training of professionals working with children in care is the first step to promote community living in Greece, says campaign’s National Coordinator


greece_training_january2017On 31 January 2017, Opening Doors for Europe’s Children National Coordinator in Greece, Roots Research Centre, organised a seminar for professionals working with children in care at Heraklion Crete. Four-hour training “Relationship and communication with adopted and foster children” for professionals from eight residential units in Crete, including psychologists, social workers and educators, was facilitated by Tatiana Gorny, graduate in psychology and education of children with autism from the Roots Research Centre and Marilou Chatziskouli, social anthropology graduate, mental health counsellor and scientific adviser to the organisation on alternative care.

According to Mary Theodoropoulou, director of Root Research Centre, “Alternative care faces a lot of problems in Greece, and we all need to be side by side, opening doors for children and their families, on the way to changing residential culture in Greece.” She adds, Empowering staff and professionals from residential units at the training was the first step to help vulnerable children from residential care enter community life. Due to crisis, professional are hired only for 6 to 8 months, and then staff in residential care facilities change again, so children face all the time new people and lack trust and confidence”, she adds. The fact that the adoption of the new legislation on foster care has been postponed means there is no  legal framework, guidelines or protocols that professionals working with children in care, adoptive parents and foster carers can proceed when facing individual cases. Law on foster care is expected to reduce the procedural burden of foster care as well as ensure investment in public awareness raising, training and supervision of foster carers. “We are very pleased that the residential care units responded to our invitation, and we thank the president Mr. Kanavakis and the board members of all units for their cooperation. We remain by their side for any help or support in the future”, says Mary Theodoropoulou from Rots Research Centre.

Lack of know-how and persistence of an institutional culture are seen as the main challenges that prevent implementation of the DI reforms in Greece. A nationwide mapping study, conducted in 2015 by the Opening Doors National Coordinator in Greece, reveals there is a patchwork of public and private institutions and other residential care housing with little or no quality control and no system to monitor the number of children in the institutions or what happened to them. Children living in residential care institutions are divided by gender to units for girls and boys. Lack of social life, low capacity of the staff in residential care units and the lack of funding for both professionals and foster care families affect the developments of community-based care in Greece. Family-based care solutions to children remain greatly underdeveloped in Greece.