The National Institution of Social Care and Vocational Training (NISCVT), was founded in August 1976 as a foster home for children orphaned during the siege and massacre of Tel Al-Zaatar camp. It was named "Beit Atfal Assumoud", (BAS: 'house of the resilient children') which is still NISCVT's local name today. In 1982, after the Israeli invasion BAS shifted its social care system from focusing on the children, to holistic family care.
The NISCVT is one of the largest NGOs working in Lebanon Refugees of Palestinian and other origins inside the camps through health and education services aiming to reach the highest number of beneficiaries.
UNRWA, the main body responsible for those two sectors is unable to address the needs of the Palestinian population adequately. Around 45.000 refugees are living in 10 camps and numerous gatherings in Lebanon. This community is deprived of very basic human and civil rights. Through its Family Guidance Centers program, the NISCVT is a pioneer in the field of Mental Health services inside the refugee community, a unique experience of its kind for this population. A multidisciplinary team of professionals provide services for children, adolescents and their parents within the five Family Guidance Centers - FGCs.
The first FGC was established in Beirut with a limited staff to respond to the growing needs of the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon in terms of mental health. In 2005 2 similar centers were launched in Beddawi and Nahr El Bared camps (North Lebanon) and in 2007 a 4th center in Al Buss, Tyre (South). The last FGC opened in 2010 in Saida (South Lebanon) to serve the population of Ein El Helweh, the biggest and most problematic camp. These centers represent a rare facility for the Palestinian refugee population in the country. NISCVT's mission is to provide specialized mental health services for children and adolescents facing developmental, behavioral or emotional difficulties, in addition to providing guidance for parents.
The target group was primarily children and adolescents. The group of social workers working inside the various BAS centers were the first target group for training, since they were the main link for case referrals. Needs have always exceedied the capacity of the services offered. Children receiving treatment at the 5 FGCs have been assessed with learning disabilities, developmental disorders or mental retardation by professionals by means of comprehensive evaluation methods. Some of those children are in urgent need of referral to special education programs in specialized institutions.
Currently the FGC team comprises more then 35 professionals working with a multidisciplinary approach. Each FGC team includes: a psychiatrist, psychologists, speech therapists, psycho-motor therapists, occupational therapist and 2 or more social/community workers.
The FGCs scope of work covers:
- individual interventions and treatments;
- prevention through training/workshops and awareness sessions delivered to the beneficiaries(parents, teachers…)
- field visits/home stations to the families;
- capacity building for staff through various trainings;
- acceptance and supervision of internships, fieldwork and training periods for higher education students, non-formal learners, specializing students, volunteers, etc.
Home visits, carried out by social and community workers aim to increase knowledge about the child’s family and social context. Visit reports are prepared by the social workers. Home stations are also done as a way to raise knowledge inside the community in parallel with awareness sessions on topics relevant to child development, psychological distress in parents and many other relevant topics.
The FGC staff are offered some internal capacity building and training by the professionals themselves through exchange of knowledge and skills, in addition to external trainings and workshops by experts in the field. These trainings are essential to update the team on new methods and tools in MH. The last training achieved by mid January 2015 was on “Parental guidance and Family Therapy” delivered by “Le Lien Systemique” (France).
The FGCs are open to receive university and higher education students, training in psychology, social work, medical studies, nursing and other MH related disciplines. Finally, since 2007 the FGCs are supported by NORWAC fro the organization of a yearly Mental Health conference. 2015 will host the 9th edition of this conference.