|UAFA’s work at Shagan Institution:|
UAFA’s work at Shagan Institution:
One of the main goals of UAFA is to de-institutionalise the child welfare system in Azerbaijan. It is being achieved by programmes such as family re-unification and gate-keeping aimed at reducing the number of children in institutions. However, it is a lengthy process and in the meantime, UAFA is improving the situation of children living in institutions.
UAFA has been working in Shagan Institution since 2004. Currently, there are 149 children at the institution. Majority of them are suffering from mental delay. Before UAFA began their work at Shagan, those children were perceived as sick and therefore requiring hospital-type treatment. Most of them were kept in beds and not developing their abilities. Many of them were showing signs of institutionalisation, such as banging their heads on walls, swallowing their hands etc.
Over the last seven years, UAFA has retrained rehabilitation staff, social workers and case managers. For example, most recently there were trainings on physiotherapy and basic child development taking place at Shagan. UAFA often invites national and international experts in order to ensure that children are provided with the best available support. There is also UAFA’s Centre at Shagan Institution and a team of four people continuously supporting the employees of the institution by mentoring, planning rehabilitation, administrative work and management.
Importantly, UAFA has set minimum standards for institutions, based on international standards, which elaborate on basic health and hygiene levels, but also on issues of child development and required staff levels.
Currently, the physical conditions at the institution are more than satisfactory. The building was renovated thanks to the Heydar Aliyev Foundation. Children have access to relevant support. There are designated arts, music and other rehabilitation rooms where children can develop their skills. However, there seems to be a very pertinent issue of understaffing due to lack of funds. According to UAFA’s workers, there are only two carers available for a group of eighteen to twenty children. They are responsible for anything from feeding and dressing the children to changing their diapers. This makes their work very difficult and uninspiring. In addition, it causes long delays in feeding times and often children have to wait hungry for their food. This issue can be resolved with the financial help from the government.