Model Home for the Therapy and Rehabilitation of Abused and Neglected Children
ELIZA’s first step, in collaboration with the SOS Children’s Villages of Greece was the founding of the first Residential Home in Greece, for the protection, therapy and rehabilitation of infants and preschool children who have suffered abuse or neglect.
During the first seven years of its operation, the Home nurtured 43 infants and children and since March 2016, when its administration was passed fully to the SOS Children’s Villages of Greece, it continues to offer essential and outstanding services.
Model of operation
The need to address the psychological and emotional traumas of young children who have suffered from abuse or neglect led to the adoption of the basic model applied by the SOS Children’s Villages. The role of the replacement-mother is undertaken by “aunties” who undertake the daily care of the children, supported by a team of experts.
The scientific team of the Home is comprised of: a psychologist – responsible for the operation of the Home, two social workers, a kindergarten instructor, preschool aids, a health visitor and a developmental psychologist. Part-time staff includes a clinical psychologist, a child psychiatrist, a speech therapist and an occupational therapist, while clinical pediatric support is offered by a volunteer pediatrician. The children’s hospitalization, when needed, is provided by the public Children’s Hospital and by a private pediatric clinic. Finally, a lawyer specializing in child protection issues offers her valuable assistance for the resolution of complicated legal affairs that children and their families might be faced with.
The scientific responsibility of the Home lies with a Scientific Committee, which oversees the program, assesses its results and proposes new practices always in the best interest of the children. In addition, external supervision from an experienced child psychiatrist further safeguards the quality of services.
Objective of the program
After the admission of a child to the Home, a complete diagnostic assessment of the child and his/her family is performed by the scientific team, followed by a personalized therapeutic program designed and implemented, according to the needs of each child.
Within a timeframe of maximum 18 months, the objective is to achieve as much as possible from the rehabilitation process so that the children reach a point, where they are able to adapt to a permanent and safe family environment. In this age group, the stay of a child in a closed environment for a long period of time increases the possibilities of extended confinement in an institution.
Reasons for admission to the Home
A child of pre-school age can be admitted to the Home for any, or for a combination, of the following reasons:
- Physical and psychological abuse
- Sexual abuse
- Maternal insufficiency
The main sources of referrals to the Home are the two Children’s Hospitals, the ALEXANDRA Maternity Hospital, the MITERA Infant Center, public prosecutors for minors and others. Although the most serious difficulties we are facing are related to adoption and fostering, we continue to fight for the right of every child to enjoy life within a family environment.
During the first seven years of its operation the Home hosted 43 children aged from 2 months to 7 years old, 27 have now found a home in a permanent family environment: non-paid foster families with possible adoption outcome, foster families, extended family, return to natural mother or SOS Villages’ families.
Work of the Home
The Home hosts infants and children of up 5 years old, applying a program of multi-faceted intervention which includes: immediate protection from further abuse or/and neglect, customized therapeutic intervention, individual program of rehabilitation in a family-like environment, legal coverage in the child’s interest. According to international research, the best indicator of success of an intervention program for infants and toddlers is child development in terms of weight and height, while for children of pre-school age this is measured in terms of speech development, psycho-emotional development and socialization.
The experience obtained after seven years of operation demonstrates that the therapeutic intervention provided has been particularly effective for all the children hosted in the Home.
Help to parents
During the early years of a child’s life, family life provides the necessary conditions for normal physical and psycho-emotional development.
When this period becomes neglectful or traumatic for the child, a thorough evaluation of the causes of the parents’ behavior and of the extended family’s issues is necessary. The goal is, on the one hand, to assess the risk of further abuse and neglect and, on the other hand, to locate the family’s strong points and, with the appropriate support, develop them so that the child can live safely in the family environment.
The scientific team of the Home offers systematic follow-up to parents and the rest of the family after the rehabilitation period and departure of the child from the Home. All children are looked after systematically by a specialized social worker, whether they have returned to their families or are living ‘in care’ until they reach adulthood.
The first building which houses the Home was donated for this purpose to the SOS Children’s Villages of Greece by Ms. Eleni Papakonstantinou and was refurbished thanks to the contribution of Aegean Airlines. The Home has a spacious outdoor area with playground, flower beds, safety railings and lawns, developed with the help of donors.
A second building was added on the same grounds in 2014 so that the Home is now in the position, at any given time, to host 18 infants, toddlers and young children, while always maintaining two vacancies for emergency cases.