Early intervention services are extended nationwide
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05:03, 08 Feb 2018

Each family wants to have healthy children. When a child with developmental delays is born, without the support of professionals the parents feel discouraged and do not manage to cope with difficulties and to act so as ensure the child’s harmonious development. The families in Chisinau are more or less assisted by specialists, but in districts and villages there are practically no such services. The reporter of IPN News Agency Elena Nistor discussed the initiative to extend the early intervention services nationwide with acting executive director of the Chisinau-based Center “Voinicel” Ala Cojocaru. During 15 years already, the Center has provided free early intervention services (interdisciplinary and diagnostic services, assessment of the development of children and their empowerment as well as counseling, information and assistance services for families that raise children with special educational needs).

The Center “Voinicel” is the first organization that instituted early intervention services in the country. When it was opened in 2003, it served several beneficiaries, but now offers support to 200 families in Chisinau. These are families with children younger than three who suffer from cerebral palsy, autism, communication disorders, the Down syndrome and other development delays. The Center’s specialists assess the intellectual, social-emotional and motor development of children, their adaptive and communication abilities and develop for them individual empowerment programs that include kineto-therapeutic, logopedic, psycho-pedagogical, educational and other kinds of sessions. The parents are helped to better interact with the children and to recognize their needs.

“We develop parental abilities in these parents and teach them how to help the child,” stated Ala Cojocaru. She noted that when a child with developmental delays is identified, the approach of the specialists who inform the parents about this is very important. This is often incorrect and the parents then start to suffer from severe depression. Some overcome this state in a shorter period of time, but such states can last for years. At the Center “Voinicel”, the parents are assisted by psychologists. The specialists examine the relationship between parents and children and, as a result, decide the actions and activities. The parents are instructed depending on the particularities of the child’s developmental delays so as to ensure at home continuity of the empowerment services. After the age of three, when the children are not eligible for the Center’s services, the families are referred to preschool education institutions to continue the empowerment of children. The parents can also continue to apply the skills acquired within early intervention programs.

Hundreds of families from outside the municipality of Chisinau come to “Voinicel” because they do not enjoy such services at the place of domicile.

From Chisinau all over the country

In connection with the initiative to extend the early intervention services nationwide, the specialists of the Center “Voinicel” last year staged initiation and training courses for dozens of pediatricians, child neurologists, kinetotherapists and rehabilitologists as well as specialists in primary assistance from different districts of the country. The trainings will continue as the Center “Voinicel” signed a memorandum of cooperation to this effect with the Ministry of Labor, Social Protection and Family, valid until 2022. The Center will offer methodological, informational and didactic assistance in developing early intervention services at the national level and also consultative and methodological support to specialists who will initiate this type of services at the local level. The Center’s specialists will also examine and assess the development of children younger than three with referrals from national public health facilities.

Ala Cojocaru said it is very important for the doctors who attend the trainings to be able to develop early intervention services at the local level, in the districts from which they come. These services should be accessible locally. Today the families do not benefit everywhere from early intervention services, even when the children have a determined disability, not speaking about the situations when a developmental delay is only suspected. In communities, they often resort to medical treatment to the detriment of occupational therapies. In such conditions, it is very hard to develop the child’s sensor, motor, communication and other disabilities. The extension of early intervention services at the national level will be beneficial to parents and will contribute to changing society’s perception of children with special needs and their families.

Legal framework is favorable

In 2010, for the first time in Moldova, there was approved a strategy for the social inclusion of persons with disabilities (for 2010-2013), which stipulated the necessity of instituting early intervention services. In 2012, there was adopted the law on the social inclusion of persons with disabilities, which defines the method of creating and financing early intervention services. In 2016, the Government endorsed a decision concerning the regulations on the organization and functioning of the service of early intervention in childhood and quality standards.

With the approval of these adjustments to the legislation, the state can contract early intervention services, covering a part of the costs of providers. In the case of the Center “Voinicel”, all the costs until recently were covered with funds from foreign partners. Starting with 2017, the state has contracted these services, covering a part of the costs through the National Health Insurance Company. Ala Cojocaru stated that even if the budget is small and does not cover all the costs of the Center, it is yet an important step. The Center’s administration is hopeful that the allocations from the National Health Insurance Company this year will be larger.

According to the Center’s director, the implementation of the project to extend the early intervention services nationwide was made possible by the generous support of the American people through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).

The Early Intervention Center “Voinicel” is situated at 2/A Drumul Taberei St. The Center’s email address is: voinicel@usmf.md, while the contact phone numbers are: (373 22) 22-49-36, (373 22) 20-03-28 and (373 22) 20-03-27.

Elena Nistor, IPN

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