Health Employers Association of Croatia on 15 years of our Centre celebration

Health Employers Association of Croatia, whose member is our Center, brought a detailed report on 15 years of our work celebration on its web site. Here is this article in its entirety:

“At the very beginning of the Child and Youth Protection Centre of Zagreb was the first and only institution in Croatia which focused on children with traumatic experiences and their families. According to good practice examples in Europe and the world, the aim was to provide them with multidisciplinary treatment and support.

Children who come to the Centre mainly come from Zagreb (55%), but so there are no other institutions of this kind in Croatia and in this part of Europe, also come children from other regions of Croatia and from neighbouring countries (Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Serbia). Even though today remains the only institution specializing in children’s psycho-trauma issues, in Polyclinic come children and families with a variety of problems, such as lack of attention, concentration, disorders in learning or children involved in the high-conflict divorce of parents, peer violence and so on.

Through 15 years of work, the Centre has been involved in protecting more than 17,000 children in working directly through the processing and/or treatment of children with their families. Last year, more than 1,500 children were admitted to the Centre, and more than 400 children were from earlier is still in the monitoring and treatment. When this is compared to numbers at the institution’s establishment, when there were about 900 newly-admitted children and families annually, it is clear that institutions and parents increasingly recognize the Centre as a safe place to get the necessary help and support. In most cases parents come of their own initiative (in 40% of cases), while one third of children and parents are referred to the Centre by social welfare. All our services are covered by referrals, i.e. paid by the Croatian Insurance Fund, so that all services for children are free of charge.

In addition to the previously accentuated principle of multidisciplinarity, a strong need for the principle of intersectoral co-operation is recognized over the years. Multidisciplinary processing involves a variety of more experts from various fields in the treatment of each child, according to their individual needs – a psychiatrist, a psychologist, a speech therapist, a social pedagogue, a special educator-rehabilitator, a social worker and a neuro-pediatrician. There are also nurses and lawyers in the team, and 4 out of 5 children treated by this model.

It is particularly important for children with traumatic experiences, abused and neglected children, to actively cooperate with other institutions of the system and educational institutions, thus achieving intersectoral co-operation, in line with all relevant guidelines in Europe and the world. The Centre cooperates closely with physicians, social welfare centres, the police, the judiciary, state attorneys, schools, kindergartens, children’s homes, Croatian Organisation for Migration and the Red Cross in order to protect children seeking asylum.

In Centre, various types of treatment are provided: cognitive behavioural therapy, cognitive behavioural therapy focused on trauma (TF-KBT), psychodynamic therapy, integrative psychotherapy, gestalt therapy, play therapy, EMDR, mindfulness techniques. Children in therapy in Centre have an opportunity to spend some time with therapy dogs which alleviates the consequences of their stressful and traumatic experience.

Day hospital started working in 2016. It provides a multidisciplinary approach in group and individual work (a psychiatrist, a subspecialist of child and adolescent psychiatry, a psychologist, an integrative therapist and a graduate nurse). It is also the only non-stationary day hospital for children and young people in Croatia. Working with children and young people and includes work with their parents/guardians, which seeks to ensure the achievement and / or maintenance of an adequate environment for the children in their homes, as well as support for parents in challenging life situations.

The service that is specifically implemented at the Centre is that we enable courts to interview the traumatised child on our premises. Specially educated professionals talk with the child, while the judge and other involved parties watch and listen via an audio-video link and can ask questions via the professionals. That is the way to prevent multiple interviews of the child and ensure the child-friendly approach, the earliest possible psychotherapy. With forensically sensitive treatment, for whom the Centre specialists are specially educated, the child can be involved in therapy even during the trial, without the risk of contamination of his testimony, which is particularly important in long-term, sometimes multi-annual proceedings. The Council of Europe has recognized the value of this opportunity, so emphasises the Centre as an example of good practice in other Council of Europe member states.

In the Centre, permanent and continuous education is recognized as an important part of the activity. Centre specialists are trained by renowned world experts such as Linde Cordisco Steele, Karen and Nicka Woodalla. Centre staff also educate students and other professionals (in the judiciary, health services, education, police, social welfare…). In the study visits to the Centre, monthly often come delegation from Croatia and other countries (Slovenia, Sweden, Romania, France, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro, Hungary, Netherlands, Iceland, UK) in order to best practices from the Croatian transferred in their state.

Centre professionals teach at the graduate studies of 13 faculties of the University of Zagreb, the University of Osijek and the Catholic University of Croatia. They also teach at the post graduate specialist and doctoral studies of 10 faculties of the University of Zagreb, the University of Rijeka and the University of Ljubljana, mentoring the students of psychology, social work, education and rehabilitation, psychiatry residents, the students of child and adolescent integrative psychotherapy and post graduate specialist study of clinical psychology.

However, education is not limited to experts. One of the important goals of the Centre is the education of the wider public, raising public awareness and granting all interested citizens an access to professional information about important themes we deal with in our everyday work. Therefore, Centre published 14 brochures and three sets of leaflets in 500 thousand copies which were distributed for free, and are also downloadable from website

The Centre professionals are actively engaged in scientific and research activities, they regularly participate in domestic and international scientific and professional conferences. They have published more than 100 scientific and professional papers, and have actively participated in more than 200 Croatian and international conferences, delivering more than 60 invited lectures. The Centre conducted eight national research on the sample of 18,000 children in total. Research results were presented in detail and are available to the public on website

The Child and Youth Protection Centre of Zagreb has been presented as a good practice example in Croatia, Europe and the world at more than 30 high profile international professional conferences. The Centre professionals are included in numerous international projects, e.g. PROMISE: Promoting Multidisciplinary Interagency Services for Child Victims of Violence – Council of Baltic Sea States – CBSS, Secretariat (Children’s Unit), by Terre des Hommes, aiming to establish international standards for forensic interviews of abused children and for the multidisciplinary support these children need.

In line with contemporary professional and scientific knowledge, the Centre recognizes the importance of involving children, young people and parents in their work. Nearly a year in the clinic is active the Children’s Committee, the Youth Committee, and the Parental Committee as the advisory bodies. On the YouTube Channel of Centre can be found video clips taken by children and young people, and they carry their important messages for adults – Children’s Committee: and the Youth Committee: Parents message can also be found.

The message for all adults involved in the lives of children and young people:

“Let’s watch and listen to our children because we can learn a lot from them. They will tell us and show what they need, what hurts them and how we can support them. When we notice a child suffering in any way, we are obliged to respond, especially as human, then as Croatian citizens, and finally as experts who work with children. Otherwise we become participants and co- responsible for a child’s suffering. “

Prof. Gordana Buljan Flander, PhD, Director

Original text on Croatian language: