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.
In accordance to best practices in the world, last week we established Parents’ Committee, Children’s Committee and Youth Committee of the Child and Youth Protection Centre of the City of Zagreb. We want to learn about children’s and parents’ needs and use that knowledge to advance the work of our Centre.
Why Parents’ Committee?
Parents’ Committee is an advisory body with seven mothers and fathers participating in its work. These mothers and fathers want to volunteer their time in advancing the work of our Centre and of other institutions and organisations in Croatia dealing with child and youth protection.
Members of this Committee will sit six to ten times per year and will operate in two ways:
a) exchange experience, opinions and suggestions related to the work of the Centre at their regular meetings and activities, and
b) conduct activities directed at advocating positive practice within organisations and institutions dealing with health issues, welfare and safety of children in Croatia.
Basic aims of the Parents’ Committee work include:
1. identifying the needs of children and families,
2. drawing attention to areas in need of change,
3. giving parental perspective to certain problems related to child and youth protection, which will help professionals in dealing with the problems,
4. improving the work of the Child and Youth Protection Centre of the City of Zagreb,
5. commitment to child-friendly and family oriented approach in the health system and the child protection system in Croatia.
Why Children’s Committee and Youth Committee?
Children’s participation in all decision and practice related to them is one of the grounding principles of the Convention on the rights of the child, which Croatia has signed.
Article 12 of the Convention on the rights of the child prescribes that:
“States Paties shall assure to the child who is capable of forming his or her own views the right to express those views freely in all matters affecting the child, the views of the child being given due weight in accordance with the age and maturity of the child.”
In other words, children and youth have the right to express their views and opinions and it is our duty to listen and consider them, enable their participation in all matters affecting them, in accordance with their age and their best interest. Thus children can participate in decision-making within the family, as well as school, local community, public services and institutions, government policies and court proceedings.
Children’s committees are a part of activities of many European organisations which support children’s participation in the matters affecting them.
Our decision to establish the Children’s Committee and the Youth Committee was rooted in the following:
• we find it important to hear and understand the needs of children and youth,
• we find it important that their voices are heard by those who make decisions in the matters affecting them,
• we want to send them the message that their opinion matters,
• we want to develop their self-awareness, trust in themselves and initiative
• we want to motivate them to participate in a positive and appropriate way in the processes affecting them.
The Children’s Committee and the Youth Committee of the Child and Youth Protection Centre of the City of Zagreb are advisory bodies directed to prompting institutional activity in accordance with the needs and best interests of children and youth.
The Children’s Committee consists of children aged 7 to 11, while the Youth Committee consists of youth aged 11 to 18. At the moment, committees consist of 5 members each.
Members of both committees will sit six to ten times per year and their activities will include discussions, workshops and projects which will help us, the professionals working for their welfare, to do it in accordance with their needs and their best interests.
Activities of the Children’s Committee and the Youth Committee covers:
1. identifying the needs of children and youth within the framework of the institutions dealing with mental health, welfare and safety of children in Croatia
2. understanding children’s perspective regarding some problems related to child and youth protection, which will help professionals dealing with these problems,
3. improving the work of the Child and Youth Protection Centre of the City of Zagreb in accordance with children’s needs,
4. encouraging a child-friendly approach in the health and child protection systems,
5. encouraging the practice of child participation in the society.
Regarding these committees, the activity of the Child and Youth Protection Centre of the City of Zagreb is based on the following principles:
- It is voluntary,
- Included children and youth choose whether they want to be the members of the committees and whether they want to participate in some activities and discussions,
- They are informed
- Prior to making a decision to participate, children and their parents/carers are introduced to the purpose, content, and possible outcomes of some activity of the Children’s Committee and the Youth Committee. Explanations given to children and youth are appropriate to their age and maturity.
- Importance of participation
- Activities of the Committees are directed to achieving positive changes in promoting child welfare and protection.
- Participants’ attitudes, personal experiences and personalities are respected in all activities of the committees.
- Activities of the Children’s Committee and the Youth Committee must not jeopardize physical nor socio-emotional welfare of the children involved and they are managed according to ethical principles.
Children and Youth in the committees will be involved in workshops and projects about children’s rights, children’s participation in decision-making and the processes affecting them, about children’s needs in health and other institutions, about the needs of children of divorce, about the role of a positive school atmosphere in the prevention of peer bullying, about cyber-bullying, the excessive use of the Internet and all other themes children and youth are interested in. We will organise their visits to institutions and bodies taking care of children and youth, and other activities in accordance with their expressed interests.
We want to express our gratitude to parents, children and youth, the members of Parents’ Committee, Children’s Committee and Youth Committee who accepted their membership and who will, with their engagement, with their invested time and ideas, contribute to the improvement of the welfare of children and youth and their families in Croatia.
I believe that soon, we and the representatives of all three committees will be able to inform you about the results of their engagement.