“Acolhimento Familiar: Desafios e Potencialidades em Portugal”

The event “Acolhimento Familiar: Desafios e Potencialidades em Portugal” (En. “Foster Care: Challenges and Potentialities in Portugal”) took place on June, 22nd, in Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation.

In this final conference 87 people participated. They were foster families, professionals, students, and others interested in this subject.

In the “Welcoming session”, we had speeches of:

Guilherme d’Oliveira Martins – Our host at Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation and its Executive Administrator, also a member of IAC’s Advisory Council, talked briefly about the importance of this topic in our society.

Dulce Rocha – IAC’s President shared how it is important to our institution to be involved in this subject, since our mission involves every child’s rights, including the right to have a family and grow up in a safe and affectionate environment.

Ana Jorge – Lisbon’s Holy House of Mercy Provider (Santa Casa da Misericórdia de Lisboa – SCML). Ana’s speech focused on how SCML has been improving its efforts to respond to child’s needs, as well as the availability to work with other institutions to promote foster care.

Rosário Farmhouse – The President of the National Commission for the Promotion of the Rights and Protection of Children and Young People spoke about protective measure in the context of our promotion and protection system.

Next, the session “Foster Care in Portugal in the XXI Century” was moderated by Fernanda Salvaterra and had the contribution of professionals related to Foster Care, who gave the practical perspective of foster care, and the latest investigations about this subject. Our speakers were:

Rui Godinho – The Director of the Children and Youth Department of Lisbon’s Holy House of Mercy.

Rui Azevedo – Technical Director of a Care Home for Children and Youth.

Both presented the work of their respective institution and how the foster care process works in each, from the evaluation and selection of families to the matching with a child. They also shared the difficulties in the intervention, how each institution overcomes them, and the activities to promote and attract candidates.

In this session, we also heard:

Eunice Magalhães – Researcher at CIS-IUL and assistant professor at the Master of Community Psychology, Protection of Child and Youth at Risk, shared her work regarding what motivates people to be foster families and how to recruit them.

In the following session “Being a Foster Family in Portugal”, moderated by Paula Paçó, we had three interventions of adoptive and foster families, who shared their personal experiences, as well as the perspective of other families with whom they contact and are part of their social support network:

Nadine Santos – President of the Portuguese Association for Foster Care (and a Foster Family).

Luiz Soveral – Foster family (who participated in the training in Portugal and Lithuania).

Maria Sequeira Mendes – Adoptive Family and the Coordinator of the project “Adopt and Foster”.

Afterwards, the team consisting of Fernanda Salvaterra, Mara Chora, and Rita Amaral dedicated a session to present the Conscious Parent Academy Project, its activities, and results (e.g., training, helpdesk, brochures). They also made a brief summary of the differences we found in foster care between Portugal, Poland, and Lithuania.

To finish  session, they showed the video with the testimony of the foster families who participated in the project.

Finally, the closing session was conducted by Vasco Alves (member of IAC’s Board) and Fernanda Salvaterra, who expressed their gratitude to everyone involved in the event.

We believe that the event was successful since we had a “full house” (as you can see in the photos). Participants’ feedback was given through a form, and the overall evaluation was positive (55.2% Very good; 34.5% Good).

Booklets from the project!

Two booklets were created as part of the project:
1. Challenges of adopted children – What is expected?
2. Challenges of Children in Foster Care – What to expect from the unexpected?

They are available on our website for viewing and downloading!

Multiplier Event

Erasmus+ programme’s project implemented by partnership from three countries (Lithuania, Poland, Portugal) where My Family Academy is one of official partnership institution “Conscious Parent Academy – Replacement parent urgently needed!” is coming to an end and at this stage presents the results and a lot of experiences.

On the 1st of July, at the National event dedicated to guardians and their children “Children are children”, held in Vingio Park, and we had the opportunity to have separate place for project “Conscious Parent Academy – Replacement parent urgently needed! ” presentation (tent, stand, table where we put all the material) and we presented the project during the entire event by communicating with the families of guardians, with guardianship centers, we personally communicated and presented products in detail to more than 15 groups of representatives of guardianship centers.

On the 1st of July, 2023, the outcomes developed in the project were presented widely for more than 60 foster care centers who support foster families and prepare them to foster the child. The staff from My Family Academy had the great opportunity to present to the representatives of foster care centers based in various cities and districts of Lithuania all outcomes we developed in the project during 3 years. We presented them for more than 150 people and what is more for than half a dozen of target auditorium we shared developed outcomes via e-mails they gave during Multiplier event.

More information and all translated results will be shared as well at the end of the project.

During the event on the 1st of July, we presented not only achieved results, structured material for guardians and those who dream of becoming guardians and/or adoptive parents, but also shared experiences and good practices gain during the project lifetime. This we did having talks with every centre’s group personally, as well we shared leaflets and brochures of the books dedicated for guardians.

The main results of the project that we share and will share with everyone who wants to, and especially with the project’s target group:

  • a help desk document which was published and which contains the experiences of 3 European countries (Lithuania, Portugal, Poland), relevant legal issues, advice on how to prepare to be guardians and how to raise children with difficult behavior in the family who come from families with various social backgrounds. • 2 booklets “What to expect and what not to expect” when becoming a foster parent and/or adoptive parent. Books are full of illustrations, which can also be discussed with the children and thus establish common rules in the family.
  • Information about webinars for guardians.

During the event, we distributed project flyers and a stand was also set up, which also attracted visitors who had many questions and were interested in the project results.

During the event, the President of the Republic of Lithuania Gitanas Nausėda, Minister of Social Security and Labor Monika Navickienė gave a speech of welcome, as well the President visited stands and had talks with participants.

Indeed, a very instructive, revealing experience of the subtleties of life accompanied us for the entire 3 years, and cooperation with foster families, representatives of institutions that take care that children have families, prepare to be foster parents and adoptive parents brought impressions, knowledge, and experiences.

The international training for guardians “The system of social norms functioning in the family in relation to the child admitted to foster care” in Lithuania

The international training for guardians “The system of social norms functioning in the family in relation to the child admitted to foster care”, which took place on May 8-12 in Vilnius, gathered a large target audience from three partner countries.

These trainings were organized for the third time in the international project of the Erasmus+ program ” Conscious Parent Academy – Replacement parent urgently needed!” and every time they include different interesting and relevant topics dedicated for guardians.

This time, the organizer of the training was VšĮ “My Family Academy”, which is one of the four partners institutions. The purpose of partnership is to contribute to the development of the competences of the families of guardians and those intending to become guardians.
The trainings held in Vilnius were aimed at exchange good practices and to deepen the knowledge, as well as to learn new things for foster families from Portuguese, Polish and Lithuanian institutions. Some of the guests visited Lithuania for the first time and were happy to have the opportunity not only to grow in terms of the content of competences, but also to get to know the country’s culture, communicate with locals, visit famous places, and to admire the capital.
It is very gratifying that the participants were engaged, active and curious from the first day of the training.
At the beginning of the training, the representatives of the social services department of the Vilnius city municipality administration presented an interesting report on the organization of child care in Vilnius using informative material (quiz) about the history and culture of the city of Vilnius.
Later, the participants listened to an informative report about the foster care system in Lithuania, which was presented by an expert on the activities of the foster care centers project. Project participants had the opportunity to compare the guardianship system in their countries. Portuguese guardians noticed more differences between the guardianship system, while Polish representatives found many similarities with the system operating in Lithuania. The participants had theoretical and practical training about the family system, the influence of its members on each other, and social norms. They were invited to share their personal experiences and insights.
A lot of attention was paid to researching the situations of the child’s entry into the family. There was a discussion about the arrival of a child in the family: how to help him/her adapt, integrate into the new family culture and become a part of it.
We know that every child has a need to belong to a group. This need is human, and children who end up in foster care often have this need violated. The participants had a practical workshop where they experienced how a child feels in a family with different parenting styles. It was very useful to see the different results and the feelings expressed by the participants.
There were many discussions about the traumatic experiences of children and the possibilities of helping them. The participants received knowledge about the types, symptoms and effects of childhood trauma on the further development and psychology of the child. It is very important to draw the participants’ attention to available resources, so the training was supplemented with a practical part about strengths and how they help to deal with various challenges that arise in everyday life.
We are very happy that the training participants were active, engaged and motivated. Caregivers willingly shared their experiences and insights. This helped other guardians to enrich their knowledge and experience. The success of the training was also contributed by the fact that the participants were guardians with various experiences – from “newbies” who only recently started caring for children, to experienced ones who have already had 98 wards. It was very gratifying to observe the sincere support that the participants expressed to each other.
Those guardians who are new to looking after children received a lot of support, encouragement and motivation. The success of the training was greatly contributed by the Lithuanian partners, who were very involved in the organization of the training. We sincerely thank our partners – Vilnius m. to the municipal administration, which took care of the training facilities.
We would like to thank the Association of Lithuanian Guardians and Adopters, the State Child Rights Protection and Adoption Service under the Ministry of Social Security and Labor, VšĮ SOTAS, LPF SOS Villages Association in Lithuania, who contributed to the organization and implementation of the training. This training showed once again that great results can be achieved in a great team.

Working meeting in Lithuania

On May 9-10, 2023, a working meeting was held on the “Conscious Parent Academy – Replacement parent urgently needed!” project. The meeting took place in Vilnius, Lithuania. All partners met on site, i.e.:

  • Foundation for education SMART,
  • Municipal social welfare Center from Żory,
  • Instituto de Apoio à Criança,
  • Viešoji įstaiga Mano šeimos akademija.

On the first day, the Foundation SMART presented all the achievements to date, then the upcoming events were discussed. After the coffee break, we managed to discuss the budget and all the required project documentation, we also talked about the final report and the most important issues related to it. At the end of the day there was a summary and a question and answer session.
On the second day, the Foundation SMART presented the final graphic versions of the helpdesks, it was time for a fruitful discussion and exchange of views on the visual version of our project results.
After the coffee break, the following webinars were presented:

  •  psychopedagogy of trauma,
  • professional burnout,
  • legal aspects of foster care,

The partners had the opportunity to evaluate the final version of the materials. At the end of the day there was a summary of the meeting.

Promotional materials for conferences in Poland

As part of the conference that took place on April 26, 2023 in Żory, Poland, special posters and leaflets promoting foster care were created.

Dissemination Conference – Żory, Poland

On April 26, 2023. a conference was held in the Municipal Public Library in Żory, which was organized as part of the project “Academy of a conscious parent – A substitute parent urgently wanted!”

The organizers of the training were the Municipal Social Welfare Center in Żory. The conference was attended by about 100 people, including Waldemar Socha – Mayor of Żory, Jacek Świerkocki – Plenipotentiary of the Mayor of Żory for social affairs, representatives of the Żory City Council, employees of the Żory City Hall, representatives of public and private educational institutions, local government units, District Office in Żory, Municipal Police Headquarters in Żory, representatives of the Social Welfare Center in Rybnik and Jastrzębie Zdrój and professional foster families operating in our City.

The conference was devoted primarily to the promotion of foster parenthood and issues related to the implementation of tasks resulting from the Act on supporting the family and the foster care system, including family assistants. Speeches in the conference were given by Cezery Podsiadlik – President of the District Court in Żory, Ewa Bartosińska – representative of the SMART Foundation from Opole, Katarzyna Koszykyła-Hus – Deputy Director of the Municipal Social Welfare Center in Żory and Joanna Zgoda – Coordinator of the Environmental Assistance Department of the Municipal Social Welfare Center in Żory. The conference was led by Weronika Cębrzyna – Director of the Municipal Social Welfare Center in Żory.

The tasty gastronomic setting during the event was provided by the Oberyba Restaurant run by the Wspólna Pasja Vocational Activity Center in Żory and the Social Integration Center operating as part of the Żory Center for Non-Governmental Organizations.

The event took place as part of the project “Academy of a conscious parent – a substitute parent urgently wanted!” – project number 2020-1-PL01-KA204-082283.

Training in Portugal for Foster Families: “Working with children with special/specific needs”

Training for foster families on “Working with children with special/specific needs” was held in Lisbon, Portugal, from February 27th to March 3rd, 2023. The hosts of the training were the Portuguese partners from Instituto de Apoio à Criança (IAC).

The training started with a brief presentation of IAC, as well as a presentation of the foster families.

During the week the following subjects were addressed:

  • Foster Care in Portugal.
  • The role of foster families: Competencies and success in Foster Care.
  • Management and promotion of Children’s and Youth’s needs and well-being.
  • Management and promotion of Children’s and Youth’s relationships with others.
  • Management of personal competencies and emotions as a Foster Family/Caregiver.
  • The challenges of Children in Foster Care: What to expect from the unexpected?

The theoretical presentation was complemented by a workgroup and several videos to encourage reflection and debate.

On the last day certificates confirming participation in the training were handed out.

All participants rated this training as very good and gave positive feedback.

Training for foster families in Poland – “Initial building of good relations between foster parents and children”

From 23 to 27 January 2023. in Żory, Poland, a training entitled “Initial building of good relations between foster parents and children” was held for foster families from Poland, Portugal and Lithuania. The training was conducted as part of the project „Conscious Parent Academy – Replacement parent urgently needed!” project number 2020-1-PL01-KA204-082283.

During the training, participants gained knowledge on the following topics:

  • organization of foster care in Poland,
  • building good relations between foster parents and children,
  • upbringing in a foster family,
  • building good relationships in a peer group.

The above topics were discussed during:

– training classes at the Municipal Library in Żory,
– study visits to professional foster families from Żory,
– study visit to the day support center – Children’s Home “Horyzont” in Żory.

During the workshops in the “Horyzont” Hall, all participants took part in active intercultural and intergenerational integration using the “Klanz” method, which is based on multidirectional activity combining movement, music, dance, art and cognitive activities. The following were used for this purpose:

– games related to the organization of initial situations (establishing contact with the group),
– playing with an animated scarf, during which the participants additionally learned the names of colors in different languages ​​(English, Polish, Lithuanian, Portuguese and Ukrainian).

Families were also presented with the forms used in sociotherapy concerning work on emotions and team integration. Participants learned what primary emotions are and how to call these emotions in the above context. The tools used in team building, i.e. the circle of communication and the circle of cooperation, were also discussed.

During the training, the foster families, in addition to expanding their knowledge, had the opportunity to visit the City of Żory, the City Museum in Żory, the Historic Ignacy Mine in Rybnik, the Historic Palace and Park Complex in Pszczyna, the European Bison Farm and the open-air museum in Pszczyna and historic Krakow.

“I think that the training for foster families was very good, fruitful and useful. Thanks to this training, foster families could learn about the functioning of foster care in another country, thanks to which they can understand, appreciate and see the differences and similarities. In addition, foster families had the opportunity to share their own thoughts, observations and problems resulting from performing their functions, thanks to a joint conversation they understood that they are not alone and all foster families face similar problems. I also consider the classes in the “Horyzont” common room to be very successful, where there was a lot of integration through fun and laughter. Many tasks related to building relationships, trust, recognizing emotions and their meaning. It was a nice experience because of multiculturalism – a lot of positive emotions and breaking down barriers in relationships.” – said one of the trainers about the training.

Each day the participants of the training became more and more integrated with each other and with the teachers. Participants of the classes gained a lot of practical knowledge and techniques of building good relationships that they will be able to use in their families.

Good relationships are the basis of a happy family

On January 23, 2023. foster families started a training course entitled “Training – Initial building of good relationships between foster parents and children.” implemented within the project
„Conscious Parent Academy – Replacement parent urgently needed!” project number 2020-1-PL01-KA204-082283.

Thanks to the Municipal Social Welfare Center in Żory acting as a host organization, foster families from Lithuania, Portugal and Poland have the opportunity to expand their knowledge on building relationships between foster parents and children. Each of the participants takes the classes very seriously, because they are aware of the importance of creating a positive relationship with the child. In the case of a foster parent, the relationship between him and the ward requires special care to be strong and durable.

We hope that the training will be fruitful, and that the families taking part in it will gain a lot of useful knowledge that they will be able to use and share with their loved ones.