Partners Bulgaria Foundation (PBF) is committed to improve the child protection system in Bulgaria. Since its inception in 1998, Partners Bulgaria has initiated numerous projects aiming at improvement child access to quality education, adequate health care and social protection. A child rights and child-centred approach is at the core of the organization’s work, and child participation is of main importance. We believe that children deserve protection and a future without violence, the chance to grow healthy, to receive education and to grow in a peaceful environment.

Enhancing understanding of child rights
Partners Bulgaria has been collaborating with the Save the Children International Alliance. Some of initial projects were related to publication and dissemination of books, tools and materials promoting the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Teacher training courses in child rights were held throughout the country. A five-day postgraduate course for teachers was introduced to In-service Training for Teachers Department at Sofia University “St. Kl. Ohridski”. In 2000 the Partners – Bulgaria Foundation opened the first Centre for the Rights of the Child in Sofia in collaboration with Save the Children, Sweden. PBF has implemented training programs for specialists, published methodologies, reports and translated books. In 2006 PBF has set up information and resource centre for children and families in the town of Dupnitsa. PBF has conducted numerous studies and proposed recommendation to prevent the marginalization of vulnerable groups of children.

Protecting children at risk
Children from vulnerable social groups are the main target group in PBF projects. Examples of long-term programs aimed at supporting children at risk are:
• Supporting children leaving care in their transition to independent living;
• Education in justice for children in conflict with the law;
• National Safer Internet for Children Campaign;
• Prevention and counteraction of child trafficking;
• Support for children left behind by parents working abroad;
• Social inclusion of children at risk of dropping out school;
• Support for children with emotional and behavioural difficulties.

These programs are implemented in cooperation with local and international non-governmental organizations, municipalities and state institutions. With the support of the UK Embassy in Sofia and in partnership with the State Agency for Child Protection, the organization organized the first national Safer Internet Campaign. The video “You never know who’s standing on the other side” was shown on national and other televisions, and posters and billboards were all over the country.

PBF has worked in a consortium led by Save the Children, Norway, which included organizations from eight Balkan countries and aimed at investigating the trafficking of children and women and all forms of exploitation. The PBF Model for the Prevention of Exploitation and Marginalization of Children and Young People, developed in Kyustendil, has shown the effectiveness of measures implemented through broad partnership, inclusion and  coordination. In 2004-2008 working within an international consortium led by Save the Children, Italy and supported by the European Commission, PBF conducted a national survey on human trafficking in Bulgaria and proposed a methodological framework and model for dealing with victims of trafficking. Another important contribution was the development of new models and practices for improving the system of justice of juvenile offenders.

Partners Bulgaria, in collaboration with the OAK Foundation and the Social Fund, developed a model to support children with emotional and behavioural difficulties. A national study at the beginning of the program showed the magnitude of the phenomenon of “children with challenging behaviour”. The model has been recognized by the State Agency for Child Protection and has been implemented in 7 municipalities in the country. The model also includes a methodology for applying restrictive physical intervention while respecting child safety and protection requirements.

PBF implemented a program for children at risk with the support of the King Bouduin Foundation, Belgium, and the Matra Program of the Embassy of the Netherlands. The model was applied in 4 cities across the country and addressed the most vulnerable groups of children focusing on prevention of abandonment and ensuring local support and collaboration with institutions. PBF promoted Social Inclusion through Music initiative by establishing rock school and resource center in the town of Dupnitsa. In partnership with seven European non-governmental organizations, the PBF has developed a methodology to support children left behind by parents working abroad. PBF’s study showed the magnitude of this problem in the country. This activity was supported by the Fondacione Albero de la Vita, Italy and by Grundtvig program of the European Commission.