Working With PRIDE

Making Children and Youth the Centerpiece of Social Policy: PRIDE as Principled Advocacy

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Following the economic and political transitions in Central and Eastern Europe in the early 1990s, social issues started to change as well--including reforms in child protection. The failing economy and social fluctuations had contributed to more than one million children growing up in institutions, and more children were at risk. Pictures of severely maltreated and abused children were shown on television programs worldwide, leading to the adoption of tens of thousands of children.

Hungary was, however, an exception. Foster care was never totally destroyed, and about 20% of neglected or abused children were living with foster parents. In 1993, at a child protection conference in Brioni, Croatia, I met CWLA's Eileen Mayers Pasztor and Rob van Pagee from Stichting Op Kleine Schaal (OKS), a leader in bringing PRIDE to Europe (see Children's Voice, May/June 2010). After seeing their workshop on how to implement the PRIDE Model of Practice, my colleagues and I were convinced that PRIDE could work in Central Europe.

At that time, Hungary had no formal assessment and selection process or training for foster parents. Social work had to be reestablished as a profession. Three international programs were invited to demonstrate and then compete to be selected as Hungary's national program for foster parent development, training, and support. PRIDE was selected as the best option because of the competency-based approach.

Soon after, we started translating PRIDE and piloting it with Pasztor and van Pagee. The first trainers' training showed PRIDE's adaptability and also demonstrated the need for some modifications. In Hungary, in addition to the 14-step PRIDE Model of Practice, we developed 32 additional training hours on legal framework, health, and other practical knowledge. We also gave PRIDE an indigenous name--FIKSZ, which means "fix"--for felelosseg (responsibility), informacio (information), kompetencia (competence), and szuloknek (for parents).

The strength of the PRIDE model overcame the resistance that is part of any system change, especially to a compulsory national framework. In 1997, PRIDE became part of new child welfare legislation. Since then, more than 400 trainers and 6,000 foster parents have been prepared through this model. We have also trained all supervisors to supplement their basic social work and other types of training with PRIDE. And, through a commitment to deinstitutionalizing children in care, many residential and group home staff have been trained as well.

In 1998, my organization, the Family, Child, and Youth Association, organized the International Foster Care Organization European Conference (IFCO) with OKS. Some 900 hundred participants attended the conference and learned about PRIDE. The program has since been supplemented by a 300-hour in-service program for professional foster caregivers.

PRIDE recognizes that the needs of children know no borders. It addresses issues that are universal to all children and families: attachment, separation, loss, self-esteem, positive discipline, and cultural sensitivity. PRIDE also encourages trainers and leaders to become trainers and leaders in neighboring countries, so we went with van Pagee to Poland and Slovakia to help with implementation there.

Within Hungary, we continue to face many problems. Birth parents still need more support to prevent unnecessary separation and foster parents need more supervision and consultation. We still need practitioners with a high level of awareness, cultural sensitivity, knowledge, cooperation, and communication skills. While many children are placed with foster families, the most troubled youth remain in institutions without any specific program provided to them. But our outcomes today are much better for children in care than when the majority of them grew up in institutions.

Global economic and social crises are a continuing threat for at-risk children and all their families (birth, foster, kinship, adoptive), as well as the systems that endeavor to support them. Principled advocacy is needed not to risk the professionalism that PRIDE offers, include a commitment to a comprehensive and holistic vision of what is in the best interest of children, of which PRIDE is an integral part.

Eileen Mayers Pasztor, DSW and Donna D. Petras, PhD, MSW are contributing editors to this column.

Maria Herczog, PhD, is an associate professor at Eszterhazy Karoly College in Eger, Hungary. She is also chair of the Family, Child, and Youth Association in Budapest, president of EUROCHILD, and a member of the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child.

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