Hand in hand for stronger families
The aim of the programme “For Stronger Families”, jointly launched by the Ministry of Demographics, Family, Youth and Social Policy and UNICEF in collaboration with partners, is to strengthen and expand social services for families with children included in the social welfare system.
In order for experts to be able to ensure the protection of a child’s wellbeing in all circumstances, great importance needs to be given to efficient support to families at risk. According to available data, 6,141 cases of violation of a child’s rights were reported in 2015 in Croatia. This worrying figure includes instances of physical and mental violence against children, sexual exploitation, neglect and abuse afflicted on the youngest members of our society. A significant role in protecting their wellbeing is played by continuous investment into work with families where some form of risk or inappropriate conduct towards children has been identified.
Minister Nada Murganić of the Ministry of Demographics, Family, Youth and Social Policy stated that “Through continuous support to our experts and associates, as well by means of professional training organised for the purpose of advancing the standard of social work with families at risk, our long-term intention is to introduce efficient support services with particular focus on families at risk, as well as to prevent the institutionalisation of children. We would like to secure priority accommodation in specialised and empowered foster families for children without adequate family care. This kind of integrated approach by experts, coupled with the development of cross-sector collaboration in comprehensive support of families, is expected to contribute to raising awareness of the importance of the family environment for the child’s overall development”.
The programme titled “For Stronger Families” will support the development of human resources among social workers and experts in the health, education and justice systems with the goal of strengthening services provided to families. Special attention will be given to empowering biological families in crisis through new and improved services based on expert tools, as well as through the promotion of foster care as a compassionate form of alternative child care and through the provision of professional training for foster families.
Valentina Otmačić, Head of the UNICEF Office for Croatia, pointed out that “The aim of this nationwide programme is to secure adequate support for every family which needs it. Parents and guardians are at the heart of well-designed child-oriented policies. In order for them to be successful in providing everything a child needs, they also require support. Precisely because of this, the goal of the programme is to ensure support for the most vulnerable 2,000 families and 4,000 children by means of investing in experts’ skills and into the development and expansion of services geared at family support. We look forward to working together with the Ministry of Demographics, Family, Youth and Social Policy in ensuring better and more efficient care for the most vulnerable children and their families and making sure that they, too, have around them the conditions which allow them to develop their full potential”.
During the programme, professional training on efficient work with families will be organised for more than 900 experts in social work, while 400 experienced social workers and experts in the health, education and justice systems will take part in training on comprehensive approaches to catering for the child’s best interests. Building on the success of the Growing Up Together programme, which has supported several thousand parents in Croatia, a new programme strand will be developed to work with parents faced with the risk of separation. The total value of “For Stronger Families” will be more than $765,000.
Along with the Croatian Association of Social Workers, the programme partners include the Growing Up Together Centre for Parental Support, the Croatian Psychological Assistance Association, Sirius – Centre for Psychological Counselling, Education and Research, and the Forum for Quality Foster Care.