Signs of Change

The Federal Council of the Federation Internationale des Communautes Educatives (FICE) met in Vienna in mid-May. So, who wants to hear about a stuffy meeting? FICE is the main international forum for child care workers to meet and get to know about what is going on in other countries, and the meeting in Vienna indicated that FICE will be changing, and is likely to become much more active.


The United States rejoined FICE as an Associate Member after a period in which contact has been maintained by Professor Carol Kelly. She and other colleagues such as Dennis Felty and Charles Hooker now have ambitious plans to develop FICE-USA, especially in view of the growing number of American agencies which are working abroad and need a forum to co-ordinate their activities. They hope to become a Full Member at the Sarajevo Congress.

England is also represented once more in FICE, this time by the National Children’s Bureau. It is anticipated that the National Centre for Excellence in Residential Care (NCERCC), which was established only recently, will act as the National Section. Since the NCB is the main focus for policy development and research being undertaken in Britain concerning children and young people, their membership should be of mutual benefit, offering the NCB’s wide network and knowledge base to FICE and international links for the NCB.

Planning Ahead

At the FICE Congress to be held in September in Sarajevo a new President will be elected, as Theo Binnendijk will have completed his maximum period of six years as the head of FICE. Until the General Meeting votes, no assumption can be made about the identity of the next President, but as things stand three National Sections have proposed Monika Niederle of Austria, and there are no other candidates. If Monika is elected, she will be the first woman to hold the presidency of FICE since 1950, when Peggy Volkov of Great Britain held the office.

Monika has already spelt out the approach which she wants to take if elected, and she will expect greater activity on the part of FICE members and National Sections, holding people accountable for carrying out the projects which they have offered to undertake. In organisations with voluntary membership, great reliance has to be placed on the motivation of members to do the work, and there is a fine line between upsetting people by leaning on them too heavily and leaving them unmotivated by failing to take an interest in what they are doing and encouraging them to complete their tasks. When a body like FICE meets only twice a year, it is easy for projects to falter and fail, so Monika’s approach will be welcome.

During Theo’s presidency there has been no Secretary General. Famke Schiff has done an excellent job in providing an efficient secretariat, but FICE-International has still lacked the overall management that a Secretary General could have offered. Monika hopes to be supported by her colleagues in Austria, and a FICE representative from another National Section has also expressed interest in taking on the role of Secretary General. If FICE is to succeed in its aims, it requires central co-ordination and back-up services, and so the re-appointment of a Secretary General would be most welcome.

The review of FICE’s aims and work programme set up by Theo Binnendijk has resulted in the creation of a process which was presented to the Federal Council by Soeren Hegstrup of Denmark. This process should make maximum use of new technology and of the mechanisms which FICE already has, such as its Congresses and Federal Council meetings, and a number of topics have already been identified for action.


As FICE approaches its sixtieth anniversary, it has been decided to produce a series of books. One will be about FICE’s sixty years and what it has achieved. From its foundation soon after the end of the Second World War through to today, FICE has reflected the changing political and economical situation, but in the interests of children it has also stood out against the trends – for example in the way that membership straddled the Iron Curtain during the Cold War.

Plans are also well in hand, too, for a series of books covering different aspects of child care. The first trawl of the Books Steering Group has produced some excellent material, largely focused on aspects of extrafamilial care, but it is anticipated that this will be the start of a series of publications with authors from different countries on a range of specific themes.

The Social Part of Social Care

The Federal Council meeting was held in a beautiful setting, a hotel in extensive wooded grounds very near to the Schonbrunn Palace, but with easy access to the city centre. Social activities included a reception at the City Hall – or Rathaus – where the host acting on behalf of the Lord Mayor, Laura Rudos, was the City Councillor responsible for Youth, herself only 25 years old but enthusiastic and knowledgeable, reflecting a Council which is forward-looking and young in outlook.

The Federal Council was also invited to a dinner in a children’s home in Klosterneuburg. Having the main festive meal of the meeting in a children’s home might not sound like an opportunity for haute cuisine, but that is what it proved to be. The home is set in a former convent, and the guests’ dining room is the former chapel, an impressive early nineteenth century building in neo-classical style. The home specialises in training for the catering trade, providing three-year courses which lead to national qualifications. A superb menu was well presented and served by a team of young people undergoing training.

Sarajevo, Here We Come.

If you have not yet signed up for the FICE Congress, consider it. The theme is about helping children to achieve, even if their lives have been difficult.

The setting will be the beautiful city of Sarajevo. Some hundreds of delegates are already enrolled, so that you will have the chance to meet child care workers from forty or more countries. The Congress runs from 6 – 8 September 2006, though you might consider staying a bit longer to see the sights.

There will be a parallel Congress for young people from 3 – 8 September, and it is hoped that ten delegations of five young people aged 15 – 17 will participate. An interesting programme has been prepared, and a website will be opened in June for prospective participants to make contact in advance.

At present there is no delegation from Britain, and anyone interested in organising a trip should get in touch. Funding has already been found from sponsors to cover the costs of the stay in Sarajevo. The working language will be English, and the young people will have the opportunity not only to meet separately but to feed their ideas into the adult Congress as well.

For more information on either Congress, see the Congress website [email protected] .

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