In the Child and Youth Protection Centre of the City of Zagreb, we work with sexually abused children and their families every day. I am proud to say that here they can find a safe place where they get help and support. On the European Day on the protection of children against sexual exploitation and sexual abuse, 18 November, we remind parents to read our publications about how to recognise and respond if the child has been sexually abused:
These days, discussions about how the economic recession is going to affect us are increasingly popular. The neglected aspect in these discussions is how the shortage of financial resources for public expenditure is going to affect the interventions when children are at stake, i.e. the prevention of problems children and families are facing. Restrictions on various expenditures are expected and it is reasonable to think about what consequences it is going to have on the budgets of institutions dealing with children and their families.
Only a little more than 20 psychologists work with children in the Health care system of Croatia. There are more psychologists working in schools – in 940 elementary schools there are 226 psychologist employed, while in 457 secondary schools and student homes there are 125 psychologists employed. Minimum standard should be one psychologist per school.
We are already economising our resources spent on children, although we always say that children are our future. If so, why do we not employ a sufficient number of psychologists in all kindergartens, counselling centers, health centers, hospitals, schools, high school and universities in Croatia. These psychologists would, before any psychopathology has taken roots, provide the necessary professional help. I cannot even accept the presumption that this way we are economising, because the expenditures imposed on the society due to untimely and inadequate interventions, are multiplying.
Not only because the child later, when obvious symptoms of behaviour disorders or psychological disturbances have developed, may need various observations, examinations and treatments, but also because as an adult, s/he becomes an individual who does not contribute to the society. If we spent money in employing psychologists, we would spend it for the development of healthy generations who would capable of creating a healthy society. Economically speaking, it would not be expenditure, but investment.
If children are really the most important thing for us, then we should ensure that every school and kindergarten in Croatia has a psychologist who knows every child and her/his family. This way, we would enable psychologists to act preventively and to take care of the children who need it, instead of being repeatedly surprised with where such an amount of violence among children comes from. Psychologists should be available to children and parents in health institutions and hospitals, instead of having to wait to be received for longer than three months.
Professionals giving proposals to open youth houses should be listened to. In these houses, children and youth would spend their free time in a structured and meaningful way, learn about relations with their peers and with themselves, self-respect and respect for others.