When David Lane asked me to write an article about FICE, I agreed in no time because I thought there would be no challenge for me to describe what FICE stands for. I started my computer, opened a word document – and then the trouble started. Where to begin? What is FICE, what does it stand for – in general and for me personally? Finally, I decided to give a short overview on the hard facts and write down my personal view subsequently.
FICE (pronounced: fee-say) is the largest umbrella organisation for professional associations for people working in the field of child and youth care. At the moment there are members in about thirty countries mostly organised in National Sections. Although FICE is (still) a European dominated organisation, there is the intention to be worldwide – after FICE USA, FICE South Africa and FICE India we are proud to welcome FICE Kenya as a new member, and we are working hard on founding FICE Latin America.
Since the General Assembly in December 2010, which took place in Stellenbosch, South Africa, Dashenka Tashkova from Bulgaria has been the President of FICE. The Federal Council is FICE’s governing body and at the last meeting we worked out an updated profile for FICE:
FICE improves – worldwide – the lives of children in care or in need of care.
FICE forms a worldwide community to stimulate excellent care for children and their communities through worldwide exchange of professional and academic knowledge with the participation of the children involved.
FICE forms an active community of members, national sections or individual organisations.
FICE contributes to the quality of care for juveniles in FICE countries, according to the Convention of the Rights of the Child. FICE does this by offering directors, professionals and young people in (need of) care the opportunity to look beyond borders:
• by stimulating international exchange within the community,
• by facilitating (digital) exchange of innovative knowledge between organisations.
The priority objective is to gather information and make knowledge accessible for everyone, so that initiatives and campaigns can be expanded and reinforced more easily and more effectively.
Issues and interests cross national boundaries and the development of professionals’ expertise has to be seen in an international perspective. Indeed, globalization and internationalisation has become an essential part of the education task in youth care. This makes cross-border dimensions and encounters not only a need but also a necessity in childcare, both for professionals and young people.
Every three years, one of the National Sections acts as host for an International FICE Congress. The next FICE Congress will take place in Bern, Switzerland, in October 2013. The topic will be: Inclusion – Young persons in life situations in the contradictory contexts of Integration – Separation – Inclusion. More information will be available on the Congress website: www.fice-congress2013.ch
At the beginning of this article, I promised to give my personal view on FICE. So what does FICE mean for me?
First of all, FICE is a network of friendly and very smart people. When I attended my first FICE meeting in 2004 in Plovdiv, Bulgaria, I was overwhelmed by the way I was welcomed. I expected a very formal group of experts in the field of child and youth care – and this was what I got. Away from the sessions, a different picture emerged. Projects, exchange of knowledge and campaigns are one aspect of FICE; friendship, love of life and love for our profession is the other.
In my opinion, the love for the profession is the main reason that keeps FICE going – and, needless to say, the focus on the wellbeing of children all around the world.
FICE is not a prosperous organisation. The resources of FICE have always been the people who want to be part of this community. All of us work voluntarily and this is not the best way to keep an organisation going. But the enthusiasm of people involved is infectious and although there are times when it is challenging to juggle daily life, your job, your family and FICE – it is worth it!
One of the most impressing experiences I had through FICE was the last International Congress in South Africa in December 2010. The Congress theme Celebrating the courage to care in a diverse world was literally presented from people all around the world. And you cannot compare a Congress in South Africa to any Congress you ever experienced in Europe! Drums and singers guided us through the day. I am sure that every participant at the Congress left South Africa wiser and in a very good mood.
Since October 2011 I have been the new Secretary General of FICE. My responsibility amongst other things is to take care of the National Sections and the individual members. One of my hopes is that there will be a FICE England in near future. And National Sections on every continent of the world.
If you are interested to join FICE as a National Section or individual member, please go to www.fice-inter.net and apply for membership. You can find more information on the web.
By the way, I discovered an excellent article about FICE, written by David Lane in the archive of the Children Webmag. If you go to February 2008 you will find lots of information about the background and the structure of FICE.
And if you want to learn more about the history of FICE, I would like to recommend the following book warmly to you: Children, Families and Care: reflections on the first sixty years of FICE by Robert Shaw; Trentham Books; ISBN: 9781858564456.
Bettina Terp is the Secretary General of FICE and is based in Vienna.