Prof. dr. sc. Gordana Buljan Flander, Director, Child Protection Centre of Zagreb, delivered the invited lecture "Child protection in criminal matters: How to secure an environment where children and juvenile victims or witnesses of crime feel safe" at the Multi- beneficiary workshop on the rights of children in criminal proceedings, held in Podgorica, Montenegro on November 27-28, 2014. It was organized by the European Commission, in cooperation with the Judicial Training Centre of Montenegro.
“This is, in many ways, an experimental and unique center not only in Croatia, but in this part of Europe, as well”, said Milan Bandić, the Mayor of Zagreb at the official opening of the Center’s new premises, and thanked the whole team for the efforts we have been making.
The Mayor expressed regrets that we have been living in such times when the Center has a lot of work to do, since there is a number of abused children, expressing hope that the Center will soon have a surplus of premises because there will be fewer abused children. He especially thanked to the Director, Gordana Buljan Flander, Assoc. Prof., Ph.D., because the Center has become Zagreb’s and European project, recognised as a model of work for other countries to follow, which was the reason why she was the invited lecturer to present the Center as an example of good practice in the UN, and why the Council of Europe Regional Conference about stopping sexual abuse of children will be held in Zagreb 27 and 28 October.
Forensic rooms for cases of sexually abused children
Director Gordana Buljan Flander emphasized that the Center has been excelling as a forensic institution often cooperating with the judiciary, especially in evaluations in high conflict divorces and the trustworthiness of the sexually abused child statements.
She showed the guests and journalists two forensic rooms we have at disposal. These rooms will enable court hearings conducted by the educated professional – court witness of the Center, in cases of sexually abused children via video link and recording of the statements.
“I regard this as a considerable improvement in the protection of sexually abused children. It will enable the child to be interviewed only once, the recording of the statement will then be used as evidence, and the child can immediately start with the treatment. This will help avoid multiple interviews of abused children” said she, adding that the meeting with the Ministry of Justice Committee for cooperation has already been agreed.
The Center has a rich reference library and rooms for group psychotherapy. Also, since the Center functions as a teaching point for several faculties, new premises have a big hall for 80 to 100 students.
Director emphasized that the need for more spacious premises became obvious soon after the opening of the Center in 2002, since waiting lists of patients soon grew to two to three months and the number of children in need of a treatment increased.
“The number of Center’s services increased from 21,000 in 2003 to 45,660 in 2010, and 47-50% of the children assessed in the Center have been coming out of Zagreb, since we are the only institution of this type in Croatia, and in this part of Europe”, said Director.
“Besides the large number of children who have been coming for longer treatments, the Center annually on the average accepts 900 to 1,000 new children one to eighteen years of age. Among these, seven to ten percent have been sexually abused children and the percentage of emotionally abused children is also significant. The number of children emotionally abused in high conflict divorces has been on the increase”, the Director said, and she stressed that a significant number of children, about seven to eight percent, were the victims of peer bullying. In cases of peer bullying the offenders were also included in the treatment to “prevent minor offenders becoming adult offenders”.
The Center has 33 employees, with nine psychologists, four psychiatrists, a paediatrician, two social workers, three educational specialists, six nurses and a jurist.
Zvonimir Šostar, M. D., Head of the City Office for Health, Labour, Social Protection and War Veterans said that the Center, only five years after its beginnings, became the best in its field of work. In 2008 the Center received ISPCAN (International Society for the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect) Multidisciplinary Team Award, and in 2011 it was presented at the UN within the Council of Europe Campaign to stop sexual abuse of children.
The Center will present its model of work as an example of good practice to representatives from other countries at the Council of Europe Regional Conference 27 and 28 October in Zagreb.