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IoConto

THE PROJECT

Within the Italian context, violence against minors represents a serious and complex phenomenon. In many cases, unfortunately, it remains a hidden, unreported and underestimated phenomenon, because violence often takes place behind closed doors in familiar contexts. This might result in a feeling of shame that hinders the process of reporting, generated by cultural factors and/or fear. The IoConto project is aimed at operators who work with minors and families at risk, in order to transmit them tools and assisted resilience methodologies for taking charge of these vulnerable groups. In particular, the project involves the following territories that present particular risks and vulnerabilities:

  • Campania and Puglia are among the four regions - together with Calabria and Sicily - of greatest criticality in relation to the service system, compared to a high presence of risk factors.

  • Lombardia has a poorer service system compared to the national average.

 

Specifically, the areas of intervention identified were Bergamo (Lombardy), the San Pietro a Patierno district in Naples (Campania) and the San Paolo district in Bari (Puglia). The project, which lasted 13 months (September 2018 / October 2019), involved about 25 operators who work in reception communities, day-care centers and other services that take care of children victims of violence. Overall, 50 children per territory were included in the project. As a result, 75 operators and 150 children participated. The project aims at:

  • Proposing a new perspective that conceives – and thus treats – children victims of maltreatment and their families as agents endowed with resources.

  • Co-building a multidisciplinary team that is able to share good practices based on the experience, knowledge and resources gained.

  • Thinking of resilience as a frame of reference in working with children and families involved in circuits of abuse and neglect.

  • Training in (and through) the Tutor of Resilience (ToR) model, aimed at training educational figures to favor resilient processes in children victim of maltreatment.

  • Improving the well-being and psychophysical health of the beneficiaries of the project through the application of the ToR model by the operators.

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WHAT DOES RIRES DO

Within the IoConto project, RiRes worked on several levels and in different phases within an articulated path.

1) Guided needs analysis.

In September 2018, RiRes met some operators for each territory to detect local specificities, related both to the context and to users, in order to identify specific training needs to be pursued during the capacity building program. The needs analysis led to the outlining of resilience paths appropriate for each context and to the identification of useful tools for monitoring and evaluating any improvements in the well-being of the children and young people involved.

 

2) Collection and evaluation of risk and protection factors

RiRes conceives resilience as a dynamic process, which emerges from the balance of risk factors (experiences and events that increase vulnerability) and protection factors (personal and contextual characteristics that reduce the negative impact of adverse situations) that intervene in the life of human beings. Hence, operators need to identify those specific risk and protection factors that characterize the lives of the children and families with whom they work every day.

 

3) The "Tutor of Resilience" capacity building

The RiRes team conducted in all contexts a first capacity building based on the “Tutors of Resilience” model to make operators aware of the resilience paradigm and to endow them with knowledge and tools to apply with young beneficiaries and their families. This capacity building took place in October and November 2018. Later, participants were asked to reflect on how to promote resilience in users of their centers, integrating their daily work with the suggested model. To this end, the RiRes team outlined some shared principles of action that helped operators in reflecting and planning. Furthermore, RiRes developed a plan of psychoeducational actions and a set of expressive workshops to be implemented in their daily practices aimed at achieving the aforementioned principles.

 

4) Monitoring and evaluation in progress

The monitoring of the project took place in 3 moments:

  • Baseline (T0): First administration of the project evaluation protocol to minors and families involved.

  • Mid-program assessment (T1): at the end of the first phase of implementation, the beneficiaries were assessed in terms of increased well-being and strengthening of resources, in order to redirect the work of the operators in the 2nd phase of implementation.

  • Post-program assessment (T2): Evaluation conducted at the end of the project. The analysis of the data collected (T0, T1 and T2) made it possible to quantify the increase in well-being and the decrease in symptoms in beneficiaries after the program. Furthermore, results made it possible to detect the main risk and protection factors in the participants and, starting from these, to offer indications on the actions to be taken to promote resilience processes in users of day care centers and other services for users with experience of mistreatment and neglect on national territory.

 

5) Model Implementation 

After the definition of a Plan of Action and the assessment phase, operators started implementing activities and learned techniques with children, teenagers and their families. In parallel, operators were asked to compile a Logbook. It was divided into four sections, one for each of the principles of action transmitted during the capacity building. Operators were tasked with reporting activities, workshops and actions relating to each principle, as well as their perceived effectiveness in achieving the goal, undertaken in the work with users.

 

6) Follow-up

Right after the second assessment, the follow-up meeting (March-April 2019) occurred, aimed at reorienting the work on the basis of results, strengths and weaknesses highlighted in monitoring phase. In particular, operators had the opportunity to reflect together with the RiRes team on the advantages and criticalities of the model, as well as on the results that emerged from the comparison between the first and second administration on the evolution of the psychosocial well-being of users. The follow-up was therefore a moment in which to reflect jointly, review and reorganize the planning of the work carried out up to then, and to reorient it in the next phase.

 

7) Writing a handbook

At the end of the project, RiRes produced an operational handbook aimed at operators and stakeholders who work in the fight against child maltreatment. The manual has a twofold objective: collecting the experiences of those who have implemented the ToR model, within the IoConto Network, and offering good practices, methodologies, techniques and tools oriented to the resilience paradigm, tested by the pilot work on field. The text "Tutors of Resilience in the IoConto Network" is available at the following link: https://www.cesvi.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/IoConto_manuale_operativo-2.pdf

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HOW AND WHY RESILIENCE

Risk factors of families in vulnerable contexts can lead to maltreatment and abuse, if not intercepted. Thus, they may be regarded as potential generators of psychological, attention-related, behavioral, emotional and relational disorders for minors. In most cases, interventions are carried out ex-post, that is when the violence has already been perpetrated, and are aimed at reducing dysfunctional behaviors and symptoms, when they are already embedded in family mechanisms. The resilience approach offers a different perspective on intervention, focused on the early recognition of risk factors that threaten the functioning of the nucleus and on the identification and strengthening of individual, family and contextual resources capable of countering those risks. In particular, several authors have recognized the importance assumed by educational figures, who are capable of providing conscious support to strengthen individual's resources as an essential protective factor in the activation of resilient processes. Therefore, resilience is not conceived as a personality trait or as an innate element. Rather, RiRes conceptualizes resilience as a dynamic process that can be activated and facilitated by the presence of operators who perform the function of ToR.

So, introducing the resilience framework within child protection projects means developing context-specific and multi-level experiential capacity building programs. These agendas are aimed directly at care workers and indirectly at ultimate beneficiaries, namely minors and families at risk. Thus, capacity building acts on various interconnected levels:

  • Reshaping of the "victimized" and "passivized" image of families exposed to conditions of risk and violence: the capacity building allows operators to change perspective in order to conceive users as subjects with resources able to cope with adverse events, rather than victims.

  • Ability to recognize, identify and mirror resources in users: operators are mainly guided in exploring the resources (I AM, I CAN, I HAVE) that are essential assets in supporting minors and caregivers in the (re) discovery and strengthening of these resources.

  • Building a path towards positive well-being that stems from resources: the ToR model allows operators to reformulate the classic paradigm that equates well-being with care of vulnerabilities, integrating it with a concept of well-being conceived as the realization of the individual potential of facing adverse events.

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