Date: 31-05-2023

ISSA Member from Moldova Learned about Early Intervention in the Netherlands

At the end of April 2023, a group of early childhood specialists from Moldova was on a study visit to the Netherlands. The early childhood intervention (ECI) system in Moldova is still in the process of being developed and implemented at the national level, and that is why it was important to see how it is working in the other country. Representatives of four newly opened ECI centers from different regions of Moldova were very interested in gaining knowledge and getting to know the organization and provision of ECI services in the Netherlands. Today we are talking about this study visit with Marina Calac, a pediatrician at the National Institute for Early Intervention (formerly the Voinicel Early Intervention Center).

The National Institute for Early Intervention is the ISSA Member and is a non-governmental association that supports families raising a child with a developmental disability between the ages of 0 and 3. It is a pioneer organization in the development of early intervention services in the Republic of Moldova.

- Marina, what did you like the most during your study visit to the Netherlands?

- The program was very well organized. In such a short period we had the opportunity to get to know the main components of the early intervention system in the Netherlands. Being a pediatrician and working in an early intervention center in Moldova, where there is not yet a well-functioning early intervention service, I was very interested to get acquainted with the early intervention services in the Netherlands. It was very helpful for my colleagues as well who are just at the very beginning of their professional career. We managed to get an idea of how the support system for children and families works, starting from the early identification of developmental difficulties in children to the spectrum of services offered to children and families. Services are well coordinated, they cover all aspects of the child's development and life, and help to avoid fragmentation and inconsistencies in the service system aimed at supporting families and children.

- What professional sites did you visit in the Netherlands and how was it to be there?

- We visited four organizations that provide services to children with developmental disabilities. ‘Omega’ is a center for severely disabled children, including very young children. ‘De Schuit’ is day care center for disabled children with ECI services from Cordaan service provider. ‘Mee’ is informational and support center for parents and family that helps them to find the proper support. We also visited municipal health service with the local ECI teams that is called ‘Parents and Child teams’. At these meetings we got acquainted with the services offered by each organization and discussed teamwork and cooperation between professionals and families, professional boundaries, records and financing of services. All these centers provide specific services, and they are all united by the general principles of early intervention: the availability of services, professionals working together with families to consistently share information with each other, specialists having cross-disciplinary knowledge to enhance the team's ability to jointly solve problems and implement interventions. Services and interventions are comprehensive and are integrated into the child health care system at various levels.

What would you wish to change in Moldova so that it works like what you saw in the Netherlands?

After the visit to the Netherlands, the gaps in the conceptual basis of early intervention services in Moldova and in the financial support became even more obvious to me. Here in Moldova we need to improve the system of early detection and referral. We have to create and deliver diverse services to children and their families and to ensure a well-trained, qualified practice in ECI.

- Do you plan to make some changes in your work because you got inspired by your visit to the Netherlands?

- First of all, I will share my impressions and experiences with my colleagues. We will then discuss the importance of professional development and work in early intervention and importance of family involvement. I came back from the Netherlands with some ideas on how to improve communication with the families of children in our center, how to work more effectively with families, how to better provide information to parents. This I will share and hopefully some changes will be later implemented.

The National Institute for Early Intervention in Moldova has two main areas of activities:

1) providing early intervention services by an interdisciplinary team of specialists using a family-centered approach;

2) professional trainings for specialists in the field of early intervention. In addition, they promote inclusive early childhood education through information events.

The National Institute for Early Intervention offers ITC services to approximately 200 families per year. These services include early identification and diagnosing of developmental disorders, child developmental assessments, developing and implementing an individualized family service plan. Assessment and implementing of individual plans are carried out by a team of specialists (pediatricians, child neurologist, physiotherapist, speech therapist, psychologist, occupational therapist, etc. in close cooperation with parents.) Specialists work with the families to incorporate these therapeutic strategies into family routines so that parents can better support their child's development.

Professional development training for specialists from the regions of the country was launched five years ago in the partnership with the Ministry of Health and the Medical State University. The National Early Childhood Intervention Institute provides trainings that cover evidence-based best practices in ECI.