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15.09.2020, 15:30 - 17:00 CET

The second meeting of the COVID-19 Cafe series took place on 15 September from 15:30 to 17:00 CET.

The meeting began with an introduction and welcoming words from Martine Tobe, the moderator, followed by short updates from Katerina Ivanova (FICE TA) about the latest activities of the organization, including the COVID-19 4P LOG App project, the newsletter, the Special issue of CYC-Online with articles from the 34th FICE Congress in Israel.

The moderator asked four of the participants to present the current situation of COVID-19 in their country.

Cate Macmillan presented the situation in Australia.

  • The COVID-19 pandemic and the restrictions have had a huge impact on children and young people’s mental health. Many young people tend to have intensified challenging behavior and temperament.

  • COVID-19 has increased many of the risk factors and reduced the protective factors that keep families together and children safe.

  • There is a rise in the number of cases and the severity of domestic violence.

  • Further, due to the increased stress, the feelings of uncertainty, the isolation, etc., there has been a rise in: substance misuse/abuse; unemployment; family conflict and separation.

  • For out-of-home care-leavers, the impact of COVID-19 on youth unemployment rates mean that their poor employment outcomes are likely to be further magnified. Young people have fared worst in terms of job loss from COVID-19, with a 40% jump in youth unemployment rates. More than 1 in 4 are facing unemployment or withdrawal from the labour market.

  • Leaders have highlighted the increased impacts of COVID-19 on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities due to over-crowding in existing housing, unemployment, poverty, higher prevalence of mental ill-health, poorer health outcomes that increase the risks of falling seriously ill from the virus, and that many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families are not able to provide their children the support for home-schooling required during the COVID-19 lock down. Further, there is an existing over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in the child protection system, particularly given the high degree of crossover with the youth justice system.

  • For more information about the impact of the pandemic on children and families in Australia, read the following report.

Tuhinul Islam presented the situation in Bangladesh.

  • No children in care were infected with the COVID-19 in Bangladesh.

  • Most of the children in institutional care are used to being inside the children's homes so in that sense the pandemic does not affect them much, however, they were bored as they could not go to schools or outside.

  • Authorities had taken extra precautionary measures to keep all children in their care safe.

  • Some of the children’s homes were being vacant immediately after locked down, and staff keep constant contract where possible but worry they are at risk of being infected with COVID-19 as it might not always be possible to maintain social distance, in addition to their maintenance.

  • Children and staff are much more relaxed now as may be they have more time to spend together and each and everyone understands the meaning of care and support for each other and their bonding seems to increase.

  • Some of the children’s homes worry about their income as they were not able to reach out to individual donors as well as COVID-19’s impact on their donors' income.

  • Tuhinul Islam was in constant communication with many African countries authors for the book “Residential child and youth care in a developing world - African perspectives” and according to them, children’s homes are much better position to tackle this crisis. No children have been infected, to their knowledge. Together staff and children were able to develop much stronger resilience.

  • According to Tuhinul Islam, larger residential children’s homes has been handling this global challenge with passion, love and care and developed resilience. Staff’s unwavering care and support for these children were vivid. Their efforts and everyday work in looking after vulnerable children and youth, need to be acknowledged positively.

  • Finally people need to look for the positive aspect of these challenges rather than focusing on negatives.

Zeljka Burgund spoke about the situation in Serbia:

  • The foster care system in the country of Serbia is well developed and around 6000 children(over 5000) and young people (from18 until 26) are placed in more than 4000 foster families. During the corona pandemic in the first six months, no serious cases of termination of foster care have been registered. The impression was gained that both families and children understood the seriousness of the situation and adhered to the recommendations of the state and stayed at home, in the family circle, as a safe area. They seemed to rely on their own strengths, and the absence of direct communication with professionals (foster care counselors, due to the emergency situation and limited mobility of all, they were compensated by frequent telephone communication and counseling. A minimum number of infections of foster parents and children with the corona virus was registered

  • The situation in residential care facilities was much more complex. Authorities in the Ministry of social affairs designed a set of rules, with a goal to prevent Covid-19, that apply to both children and employees. One of the most difficult measures was isolation in case of a risky behavior or risky situations (for example contacts with Covid-19 positive people, or breaking a rules such a leaving the children’s home setting without permission, unauthorized going out, etc.- which caused, despite the maximum efforts of the employees, various risky behaviors of children, aggression and a high level of suffering due to the deprivation of social contact and freedom.

  • On the other side, authorities provided enough masks disinfection materials etc. even provided very attractive holidays outside of cities, but children still lack the usual routines and contacts with other children outside the home and with the family.. Now, there are more and more Covid positive professionals in this new pick of corona, so more and more decisions of isolation have been enacted...and it is not very good at the moment. Happily children in residential care(or very few) have been infected with COVID-19 so far. It is a very stressful period for children and people who take care of them. Our colleagues are heroes.

  • FICE Serbia is proposing to organize an online conference on the topic Residential care during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Haneen Kheirdeen from Himaya presented the situation in Lebanon:

  • There are currently 1.5 million refugees in Lebanon.

  • Most of the refugee camps are distributed nearby living areas. The hygiene in these camps is very bad. The situation was very disturbing.

  • Himaya organized a video session to raise the awareness of refugees about the importance of hygiene. As a consequence, the refugees learned a lot about the COVID-19 and started wearing masks.

  • The beginning of the school year and children returning to school was a big concern. There is a lack of equipment. Students will be going to school in groups and each group must not exceed 18 students. Part of the week they will study online. In the previous school year the quality of online education was not very good.

  • The economics situation in Lebanon is very bad.

  • Himaya provided support to people affected by the Beirut blast. During this crisis the numbers of COVID-19 infected people started to rise dramatically.

  • There is a huge problem concerning children and young people’s addiction to mobile phones and devices. Children become addicted to violent games which disturbs their daily routine and their anger management abilities.

  • Parents are experiencing a lot of stress, because due to the economic situation they are having difficulties with providing for their children.

  • There is a rise in the use of corporal punishment. Himaya is making efforts in this regard.

  • So far there are no infected Syrian refugees, contrary to expectations of the society.

  • There were very strict measures applied from the municipalities to the Syrian refugees regarding their movement and re-location to avoid the spread of the infection.

  • Mental health is also a huge problem.

A common problem in many multicultural societies is that refugees and other country nationals are not being explained about the COVID-19 and the necessary hygiene measures in their mother tongue.

The presentations were followed by a breakout session, where participants discussed many COVID-19 related topics in small groups.



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