The Attachment Assistant program is one of the first in Bulgaria implemented by the WWO Foundation on its own in support of improving the care of babies and young children in institutions from 2009 to 2016.

Initially, the WWO Foundation partnered with “O.A. Milisardie ”as a part of the program and project “Grandmother’s Grandson”.

As described in a publication on the website of the DMSGD Varna “The idea of the program (“Grandma’s grandson”) is to include children with increased individual needs. For example, children with motor problems, nutrition, speech problems, children with emotional deficits. The aim in the course of the work is to build a full-fledged individual relationship between the adult and the child, which will become a support for overcoming the problem. Every three months, children are tested with the Denver test and an individual psychological characteristic is developed and presented to the assist women for each child individually. The areas where the work should be emphasized are indicated, the successes are emphasized, the gaps are pointed out. Materials for the development of motor skills, speech and social and emotional-personal behavior are developed and also given to them.”

“The Grandma’s Grandson” program is implemented in many places in the country, where there are institutions for children and is implemented by various organizations. WWO is partnering in this project by providing funding for working women. The Foundation’s contribution is not reflected by the partner.

After the withdrawal of WWO from the project and in order to continue to support the care of institutionalized babies and young children, we established “The Attachment Assistant” program. For the implementation of the program are hired retired women who have visited the children in the homes and have communicated with them, in institutions for children aged 3 to 7 years – in the home “Nadezhda” Ruse, in the home “Detelina” Pleven and in the “Home for medical -social care for children” in Debelets, and in Karin Dom, Varna. The program aims to build an individualized relationship between child and adult, which is permanent for two hours a day for 5 days a week.

The beginning of the study of attachment was set by the english psychiatrist and psychoanalyst John Bowlby (1907-1990) and the american psychologist Mary Ainsworth (1913-1999). Based on their research, later theorists conclude that the secure attachment built in the first years of a person’s life affects the main areas of development. (Brettonton, 1992, Edwards 2002) Further research on parenting styles indicates that sensitivity and responding to a child’s needs lead to a secure bond of attachment that favors cognitive, social, and emotional development. (Kasou and Dunst, 2004; Kochanska and Axon, 2004). Literature devoted to children raised in institutions or alternative care also emphasizes the role of the responsive adult caregiver in improving child development. (Study of an institution for children without parental care in St. Petersburg, 2005; Groark, Muhamedrahimov, Palmov, Nikoforova, and McCall, 2005; Van Leesendoorn, Louis, and Jeffer, 2008; Groark, McCall, and Fish, 2011).

Program definition:

The Attachment Assistant program creates an individualized relationship between a trusted adult from the local community and a child without parents or a child at risk. The main goal of the Program is to support the child’s development by building a healthy attachment relationship.

Program participants:

  • WWO team at the local level, program trainer and logistical support;
  • Partner institution or organization;
  • Adults from the local community who, after selection and hiring, work as attachment assistant;
  • Children deprived of parental care.

Program methodology:

  • Standards and Training Program
  • Supervision protocol and guidelines
  • Protocol and guidance for the transition period

Program model:

Each attachment assistant cares for 2 children, 2 hours for each of them, 5 days a week, providing individualized care and attention according to the guidelines and standards of the Program. The staff takes care of the children for as long as possible. In cases where the child moves to foster care, adoption or another situation, attachment assistants participate in the transition period according to the program Protocol for the transition period.

Program results:

  • Children improve in: social skills, psychosocial adaptation, cognitive development, fine motor skills, general motor skills and communication.
  • Children show the ability to build secure attachment.
  • Trained caregivers demonstrate early childhood intervention skills.
  • The community has number of trained adults in the field of child development.

End of the program:
The Attachment Assistant program ended in early 2017.

Today, the deinstitutionalization of the care of babies and young children is in progress and many homes have been closed.



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