Discover, Develop, Empower!
First Step Georgia has been implementing its Early Intervention Program since 2011, serving children from birth to seven and their families in Tbilisi, Kutaisi, Batumi and Rustavi. The aim of the program is to identify the children with developmental disorders and those at risk for disabilities and to stimulate their development. It is especially important to help parents and family members master the skills needed to support their children in their quest for an education and social integration. The program also offers services to children without disabilities, but who need support to become more confident and successful in their studies and everyday life, to manage their own behavior and develop social and communications skills.
The concept of First Step Georgia's Early Intervention Program is based on the Discover, Develop and Empower approach:
Discover means identifying children at risk to prevent development disorders if possible. Resources are targeted in function of the childs needs, including family strengths, available specialists and services--state, charities, support networks, etc.
Develop implies an assessment of the child's skills which can be used to help the family create an environment conducive to the child's development, and includes specialists skills as well as methodological tools for addressing different needs and diagnoses. It also includes developing public awareness.
Empower involves the promotion of the child's and the family's skills to function independently, both for the child (life skills) and the family (to raise their child); to promote social awareness and stronger ties between families with special needs, the state and the society; it includes using individuals and organizations to advocate for children and families with special needs and to provide high-quality, need-based services.
A 2013 internal evaluation in three regions of Georgia, covering administration and programs, showed FSG has a strong team of trained specialists that access biannual re-training, regular supervision and monitoring. They participate regularly in conferences and workshops and use internationally recognized methods and tools such as HELP--a curriculum-based assessment tool; PEP3 psychoeducational profiling for autism; and a streamlined incident management methodology with M and E for quality assurance.
FSG is working with state and partner institutions to create an early development policy. In 2012-2013 an early development project was created with UNICEF's support, and a policy document is planned for 2013-2014 with help from the Open Society Foundation. First Step Georgia's Early Intervention Program was designed, introduced and developed with financial and professional support from the Irish organizations Next Step and St. Michaels House; HSBC, UNICEF; and the Open Society Foundation. We express our sincere gratitude.