I am proud that the campaign 'Raise your hand against smacking' organised by the Council of Europe was launched in Croatia. I am also proud that Croatia introduced a ban on corporal punishment of children in its legislation in 1999. It ranked Croatia among the most progressive European countries. I believe that the development of a society may be assessed by how its systems protect children.
Today we celebrated 15 years of our Centre work. I want to say thank you to all those who contributed to our celebration and supported our work. Special thanks to the children and youth in our Children and Youth Committees and the school children who sent their material and messages to adults, who authentically helped us to clearly present the message of our Centre’s endeavours. Their messages about what they need and expect from parents and adults touched all present guests in the Renaissance Hall of the Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts.
Now I want to briefly present our Centre’s work in the past 15 years:
I. In the past 15 years of work, 16,729 children and families were included in diagnostic and treatment procedures in the Centre
Our Centre is a health institution aiming at multidisciplinary diagnosis, treatment and support of the children with traumatic experience and of their parents. However, the Centre is open to all children regardless of the problems they are coping with. We often work with children and parents in high conflict divorce, children who are victims and/or perpetrators of peer bullying, who have learning difficulties, attention deficits, poor concentration and similar.
Thirty-five percent of admitted children were exposed to various forms of abuse: most of them to witnessing domestic violence (more than 3000), and to sexual abuse (more than 1400).
We can be proud that the number of children and parents asking for our help is increasing. The number of newly admitted children, which was 900 per year 15 years ago, was 1500 children last year. Children mostly come to the Centre from Zagreb (55%), but since in Croatia and in this part of Europe there are no other institutions of this type, children from other Croatian regions and even from other surrounding countries (Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and Serbia) also come to our Centre.
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.
II. Cooperation with other institutions
We actively cooperate with physicians, social welfare centres, the police, the judiciary, state attorneys, schools, kindergartens, children’s homes… We also cooperate with the Croatian Organisation for Migration and the Red Cross in order to protect children seeking asylum.
A specialty of our institution is that we enable courts to interview the traumatised child on our premises. Especially 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 (even during the court procedure) and forensically sensitive treatment, which prevents the child’s waiting for help for several years. That is the reason why the Council of Europe emphasises our work as an example of good practice
III. Multidisciplinary diagnosis and treatment adjusted to the individual needs of children
Our team consists of psychiatrists, psychologists, a neuro-paediatrician, social educators, speech therapists, social workers, nurses and a jurist. Four-fifths of the children were treated by at least three professionals of different profiles.
Multidisciplinary diagnosis and treatment are the basis of our work, because, in accordance with contemporary research findings and practice in the world, we provide a professional approach according to every child’s individual needs.
Team integration is conducted following the principle of professional equality of involved professionals, and the specific approach of every professional.
IV. Biopsychosocial model of work
Our diagnosis and treatment follows the biopsychosocial model.
In cooperation with the Croatian Insurance Fund, new diagnostic and therapeutical procedures including specialist-consulting health care of traumatised children have been established. These are implemented by all professionals in the multidisciplinary team, being a model and a reference to other health institutions.
V. We provide 8 different therapies, and we also have therapy dogs
In our Centre we provide various types of treatment: cognitive behavioural therapy, cognitive behavioural therapy of trauma, psychodynamic therapy, integrative psychotherapy, gestalt therapy, play therapy, EMDR, mindfulness techniques. Children in therapy in our Centre have an opportunity to spend some time with our therapy dogs which alleviates the consequences of their stressful and traumatic experience.
VI. Day hospital of the Centre
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).
VII. Professionals working in the Centre teach in 13 graduate and 10 postgraduate and doctoral studies
An important part of our work is education. It includes both the education of our professionals by renowned world experts and the education of other professionals (in the judiciary, health services, education, police, social welfare…) conducted by our experts.
At least three delegations from Croatia and other countries (Slovenia, Sweden, Romania, France, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro, Hungary, the Netherlands…) pay study visits to our centre every month. Our experts educate all interested professionals. That education includes relevant themes in the field of child protection. Our 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.
VIII. Education of the public: Our 14 brochures and three sets of leaflets were distributed for free in 500 thousand copies
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, our Centre published 14 brochures and three sets of leaflets in 500 thousand copies which were distributed for free, and are also downloadable from our website.
We publish information about our work and professional texts for children, parents and the media on our website www.poliklinika-djeca.hr. The website has 15 to 20 thousand unique visitors per month.
IX. The Centre is emphasised as a good practice example in Europe and the world
The Child and Youth Protection Centre of the City 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.
Our 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.
X. We conducted eight national studies with 18,000 children included
The Centre conducted eight national studies on the sample of 18,000 children in total. Research results were presented in detail and are available to the public on our website www.poliklinika-djeca.hr.
Our professionals are actively engaged in scientific and research activities, they regularly participate in Croatian 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