On 25 April 2012 Lumos held a press conference in Bulgaria, together with the State Agency for Child Protection and the Agency for Social Assistance, to present the results of a six-month assessment of the families of children with disabilities living in institutions. This had involved meeting with the families of 1252 children to assess their willingness to reestablish contact. During these meetings, Lumos consultants repeatedly heard the same story –
“I was told by the doctor to leave my child in an institution… I was told it would only live for a short period….”
In many cases, Lumos consultants then had to deal with the traumatised parent’s shock at discovering that their child was still alive and living in an institution.
Other families told of how they had been forced to place their children in institutions because of poverty and the lack of support services in their community. Many then told of how harrowing it had been to find that the institution actively discouraged their staying in touch with their offspring, despite the fact that this parent-child contact is so vital for a young person’s development and wellbeing. Rossi Petrova, National Representative for Lumos in Bulgaria, said,
"When parents decided to call the institution or visit their child they were often told not to call or come anymore because this would upset the child."
These family assessments were the first significant attempt to reach out to the families of the children in institutions and explore what help parents would need to restore contact with their children, or eventually, to be reunited with them. As a result of these meetings, almost 50% of the families of children with disabilities living in institutions have said they would like to reconnect with their children but will need support to do so. Lumos continues to work with the Bulgarian government to promote the significance of families for the wellbeing of the child and the success of the process of deinstitutionalisation.