FOSTER project meeting in Iceland
On 5th and 6th June, 2023, partners in the FOSTER project "How to Manage Life Wisely Using Digital Technologies" (Kara Connect, CTS – Customized Training Solution and CASE – Center for Social and Economic Research) met in Iceland for another study visit.
The first part of the meeting took place at the headquarters of the host institution – Kara Connect, in Raykjavik and was an opportunity to present the results of the activities undertaken so far in the project. Including:
- A report prepared by Kara Connect, entitled: "Out-of-school education of young people at risk of social exclusion in Iceland – an overview of educational offers and innovative tools", on the issue of teaching about new technologies and their use in everyday life, and on teaching through modern, digital solutions.
- CASE analysis entitled: "How to deal with everyday life by using digital technologies wisely? Diagnosis of educational needs of children in Foster homes in the area of the use of new technologies". The analysis identifies key topics which require further attention: Digital footprint and identity; Privacy and security; Relationships and communication; Hate speech and hate; Financial management. The aim of the analysis was to identify knowledge gaps in these areas among caregivers and children from foster homes.
- Educational materials which were created for children and caregivers in foster homes on the five topics selected on the basis of CASE`s analysis. Among the materials for children are: videos, infographics, graphics, educational games and training packages. Materials for caregivers include: instructional videos, training scenarios, instructions for conducting trainings and a manual. All the materials are available online and can be used free of charge.
The partners discussed also the upcoming activities in the project, divided future tasks and reviewed formal issues related to the interim report.
During the second day, the partners from Poland visited several institutions in Iceland that provide key support to children growing up without parents. Just like Kara Connect representatives during their visit in Warsaw, Polish partners had a great opportunity to compare the best practices of the Icelandic and Polish care systems.
The first institution visited was the Trappa center, which offers online professional speech treatment to children of all ages. According to its founder, Tinna Sigurðardóttir, online services are becoming increasingly popular in schools or educational institutions outside the capital, where direct access to specialists is limited and help is very much needed.
Secondly, the partners visited Bernavern, the Reykjavik Child Protective Services, acting on behalf of the local government, which helps children and parents in serious difficulties in ensuring the future well-being and safety of children through offering advice, support and a wide range of professional solutions. The director of the agency, Anita Ragnarsdóttir, described the Icelandic system of residential homes, family homes and foster homes designed for children who, for various reasons, are unable to stay at home with their biological parents. In these homes, children live in safe conditions for a short time during which they and their parents receive broadly understood support. Caregivers may be invited to spend time with the child. Efforts are also made to facilitate the family’s communication, with parents receiving training to help them meet their children's needs. However, if for some reason the child cannot return to their biological parents, they are placed permanently in a foster family.
Another institution visited was Barna - the National Agency for Children and Family, which is the central advisory center on children's issues in Reykjavik, acting on behalf of the Ministry of Education and Children. The agency’s director, Páll Ólafsson, explained that its role is to supervise the activities and work on child protection, legislation, the establishment of subsidiary bodies, and the provision of services for children’s welfare, both in the capital and in the municipalities. The agency offers individual support and promotes digital solutions for children. It also cooperates with the Child Protection Committee, which is responsible for child protection at local level.
A visit to Iceland can be considered very successful. The project partners gained new knowledge and insights on the Icelandic foster system, as well as children’s upbringing in a digitally safe world. Meetings with representatives of lead institutions responsible for child protection were, without a doubt, an invaluable source of advice and provided an opportunity to share the information about the FOSTER project with private and public institutions.