Transformation in Tajikistan: “Baby Homes” become family-based support centers

ISTARAVSHAN (Tajikistan) – Mothers and children arrive at the Family and Child Support Centre to support young children from difficult families. Social workers are waiting inside to receive the children.

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The children spend their time reading, playing and exercising. Dilnoza (6 years old) has been coming to the centre for six months. After being diagnosed with cerebral palsy, Dilnoza was admitted to the centre. The centre’s specialists found that Dilnoza had poor muscle development, limited mobility in her left arm, leg and speech, as well as a lack of coordination for her age.

After a few months of rehabilitation at a centre, Dilnoza’s speech and muscle movement improved. She was able to hold a spoon, eat, dress and play new games.

One of the four residential childcare centers that have been converted into centres in Istaravshan, also known as Baby Homes in Tajikistan, is located in Istaravshan. WE helped transform the spaces into family centres, where children with disabilities can receive support from their families and community without having to be institutionalized. The centres provide social services that help identify vulnerable families and young children with developmental delays or disabilities. This allows for early intervention. The most important thing is that the centres offer vulnerable children a safe, supportive family environment.

Abdukholik, aged 3, also attends the centre. Abdukholik is often away at work so he lives in a shared room with his mother and other extended family members. Abdukholik has a difficult situation. He was diagnosed with delayed psychoverbal development. This has led to his poor speech quality and made it difficult for him to focus.

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Abdukholik was diagnosed by his mother. She saw a brochure about Family and Child Support Centre and decided that Abdukholik should be brought here. Abdukholik’s speech improvement was evident after just a few weeks. Abdukholik’s vocabulary grew and he began to pay more attention. He became more social and began to play more with other children.

Umeda Ergasheva is Director of Khayot Dar oila (Life in the Family), WE partner. “Social interaction can be as important as stimulation such as games and exercises to help a child grow to his/her full potential,” she says.

From “Baby Homes” to Family and Child Support Centres

Institutionalized children are often denied social, emotional and intellectual stimulation. They are especially vulnerable to abuse, neglect, violence and neglect. A developing mind is more vulnerable to damage the younger the child.

Salohiddin Shamsiddinov (WE Child Protection Officer) describes his visit to Baby Homes. Every child deserves love, attention, care, and family.

WE and the Government of Tajikistan have been closely working together since 2017. This includes helping to transform the system of residential childcare facilities. The Government, for example, ordered the conversion of four baby homes in Dushanbe and Istaravshan into Family and Child Support Centers. The opening of the Istaravshan centre in 2021 was attended by the President of Tajikistan.

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Aziza Rahmatova, who was previously the head of the Health Ministry’s Mother and Child Health Unit, stated that “I believe children deserve a great start in life.” The Government introduced a variety of social services to children with disabilities and their families, including daycare for working parents; daycare for children who are not able to care for themselves; ‘Give Mom a Break’ services for parents with children who require 24-hour care; and temporary shelters to mothers with young children.

Every child deserves a safe environment in the home.

It is possible to transform Baby Homes into Family Child Support Centres, as well as other types of residential childcare institutions like boarding schools. WE plans to continue working with institutions for children living with disabilities in order to create safe and supportive environments for them that meet their needs.

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Kouysinoy Makosoudova, Our Early Childhood Development Officer in Tajikistan, is happy to see the move away from residential institutions. She also said that the Baby Homes were not responsive enough to the children’s individual needs. “Babies in these homes aren’t receiving the necessary responsive care. They don’t get enough kisses and hugging. They don’t sing lullabies.