A STEP towards the prevention of child neglect and abuse
One of the main goals of ELIZA is the prevention of neglect and abuse of infants and toddlers. Within this framework, the non-governmental organization ’One Child, One World’ and the ELIZA Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children have developed together the program VIMA / STEP, a multi-level intervention addressed to families that need support in the handling of common problems of pre-school age children, like setting limits, sleeping and eating, as well as to new families, who are experiencing complex issues that might involve dangers to children.
VIMA / STEP supports particularly vulnerable families faced with difficulties arising from the economic recession, such as poverty, unemployment and social isolation. These circumstances affect the social and emotional development of the child, especially during infancy and early childhood. The prompt identification of these vulnerable families and the provision of early intervention services, in order to offer crucial and effective solutions to their problems, serve to forestall possible incidents of neglect or abuse.
Objectives of VIMA / STEP program
The main objective of the VIMA program is to prevent child neglect and abuse by offering counseling and empowerment services to vulnerable families with children of pre-school age.
The families participating in the VIMA program are looking for support that will allow them to improve their parental role and confront serious family, social and economic challenges. The program applies the best international practices of early intervention, adopts alternative scientific approaches and offers specialized services to mothers, children and to the entire family based on the assessment of their needs.
VIMA is addressed to all families, regardless of origin, race or religion, with services provided in both, Greek and English. The program employs two full-time psychologists, while support services are provided by the Social Service of the ‘One Child, One World’ organization and by volunteers.
VIMA is housed in a renovated neoclassical building, provided by the ‘One Child, One World’ organization, in downtown Athens.
During the first three years of operation of the VIMA programme, 102 families with 130 children have received help after being referred to the program mainly through nurseries, the social service of ‘One Child, One World’ as well as by other NGOs active in the area. In addition, 467 parents and childcare workers received information regarding common parental issues through regular open meetings in nurseries organized by the psychologists of the program.
In 2014, ELIZA and the ‘One World, One Child’ Organization co-organized a scientific one-day Conference titled “Children in Danger: Prevention and Treatment”. The conference was highly successful thanks to the participation of professionals from 24 different organizations, representatives of universities, as well as two renowned university professors from Denmark and Poland.
In 2015 – once again in collaboration with ‘One Child, One World’ – Professor Mary Raftopoulou from Sydney ran a highly innovative seminar on Sandplay, attended by 28 delegates from 12 welfare institutions. Sandplay is a therapeutic method based on the psychotherapeutic theories of C.G. Jung suitable for children who have experienced traumatic experiences.
- Detection of family and child needs
Drafting of detailed family history and development records for children under 5 years old, as well as assessment of family function, through five or more individual and family sessions.
- Therapeutic intervention
Planning and implementation of parents-children sessions on a weekly basis along with a cooking session every fortnight, monitored by two psychologists with the help of volunteers.
- Parenting counseling
Additional psychological support and enhancement for single-parent or mother/father families both within the premises of the program and at the family’s home, if deemed necessary, on a personal or group level.
- Art workshops
In July of 2014, an art workshop for a large group of children and parents, in collaboration with a group of volunteers, proved to be a great success.
- Cultural activities
Aiming at socialization and confrontation of social isolation, a series of family visits is organized to selected museums and historical sites of Athens.
Collaborations of VIMA program
Within the framework of the VIMA program and in collaboration with the Children’s Home Foundation, open meetings with parents were hosted at the four stations of the Foundation (Thisio, Neos Kosmos, Ambelokipi, Piraeus). Starting in 2016, awareness-raising meetings addressed to the child caretakers of the four stations of the Foundation will be held, while an equivalent collaboration with the Municipal Nursery of Athens is already in operation.
As part of its activities, the VIMA/STEP program has also worked with other agencies, such as Humane Humans [Ανθρώπινοι Άνθρωποι] regarding the handling of housing problems that some families are faced with, as well as Fairytale Land for artistic activities addressed to children up to 2 years of age. There are also incidents referred to the VIMA on a regular basis from other bodies of the community.
VIMA program for the prevention of child neglect and/or abuse is co-funded by’ One Child, One World’ and the ‘Hellenic Hope’ charity organization, which focuses on the provision of services to families with young children, particularly affected by the economic recession and living under conditions of social isolation.