Benefitting children, parents and community: the Sure Start Programme in Hungary
by József Rostás, Roma Fellow for Early Childhood Development
Sure Start Children’s Homes in Hungary are effective initiatives which have provided significant early childhood development (ECD) opportunities to segregated and disadvantaged micro-regions, composed of Roma and non-Roma populations, who are facing many challenges. According to relevant data, the number of families involved in the programme is growing, as more and more find themselves in difficult situations.
“Sure Start Children’s Homes in the Southern – Transdanubia Region”, provides insights about the services of the Sure Start Children’s Homes and the experiences of the participants. The study focuses on the Roma minority living in Hungary as a service user. The research has a territorial, public health and Roma focus and aims to collect good practices from the beneficiaries. Particular relevance is given to EPHA’s, as well as the European Commission’s, assessment of the National Roma Integration Strategies (NRIS).
According to the research, Roma parents valued most the connection established between inter-professional groups and families. Parents also emphasised the popularity of various community programmes such as parent groups, events for the Roma population, and the promotion of a healthier lifestyle which included cooking courses, treatments against head lice and awareness-raising campaigns.
Professionals highlighted poverty as the main problem affecting both Roma and non-Roma populations in the majority of the targeted micro-regions. The greatest challenge faced by professionals is the lack of motivation and qualification of the local population, along with the deficiency in basic life skills. In addition, there is a lack of available and trained professionals to cater to the needs of children and the community.
Based on the experience of the early years, the integration of the Children’s Home into the life of the local community and cooperation with the local institutions takes place in an informal context. The location of the Home is an important aspect as it is advantageous to be close to segregated families but not far from the centre. In most cases, the services of the Children’s Home are adapted to local needs and characteristics, but according to local participants, the most disadvantaged families are not involved successfully in the programme.
Moreover, financial constraints and the lack of trained professionals may create instability and pose a threat to the continuation of the programme. However, the positive effects of the services are already observed in local kindergartens with children showing improvement in social skills, adaptability, vocabulary and mobility. In addition, Roma parents have developed their parenting competencies, collaboration skills, adaptability and problem-solving skills and have enlarged their network of relationships.
In view of the above, the fate of Roma children growing up in disadvantaged, segregated families is a serious problem as low education and unemployment are passed down from generation to generation. Attempting to bridge these gaps as early as possible might have a significant impact and positive implications for the educational attainment of Roma children and the Roma population in Hungary.
 Rostás, József. “Sure Start Children’s Homes in the Southern – Transdanubia Region”. EPHA, July 2019, p.14
 ibid., p.8
 Rostás, József. “Sure Start Children’s Homes in the Southern – Transdanubia Region”. EPHA, July 2019, p.13