The project "Strengthen the right of children to be safe" was implemented for 20 months, or to be more exact, from July 2013 to March 2015. Partners of the project were: Association FENIKS from Dubrovnik, Dubrovnik-Neretva County, Association of Alfa Albona from Labin, Istria County, Association Portal Alfa, Belišće, Osijek-Baranja County and Association U.Z.O.R. from Rijeka, Primorje-Gorski Kotar County.  Project members were: City of Dubrovnik, City of Labin and Istria County, City of Belišće, City of Rijeka and city of Zagreb. The project was implemented in five counties: the City of Zagreb, Osijek-Baranja, Istria, Primorje-Gorski Kotar and Dubrovnik-Neretva County.

The total project value is 100,486.60 euros. The project was co-financed by the European Union under the program European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights - EIDHR) in the amount of 79,500.00 euros, and the rest of the project is co-financed by the Office of the Croatian Government for Associations and by the National Foundation for Civil Society Development in the framework of institutional support.

Who were the participants of the project?

2,500 young people in five counties,

2,500 parents in five counties,

+ and around 1000 employees of the institutions involved in the protection of children and young people in five counties, Dubrovnik-Neretva County, Istria County, Osijek Baranja County, Primorje Gorski Kotar County and the City of Zagreb county.

 

Background of the project

Violence and abuse of children and youth has been recognized in Republic of Croatia as one of the top problems of the society. This can be observed in numerous strategic documents which represent a concretization of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and is a result of keeping the paste with international trends in this area such is National strategy for the rights of the child 2014 – 2020, National Strategy of Protection against Family Violence from 2011 - 2016; Program of Measures for Increasing Security in Educational Institutions (2002); National Program for the Prevention of Addiction for Children and Youth in the Educational System and for Children and Youth in the Social Welfare System 2010 – 2014; Program of Activities for Prevention of Violence among Youth for 2009; National Youth Program 2009-2013; National Program for Roma (2003) and the National Strategy for the Creation of an Enabling Environment for Civil Society Development 2012 – 2016.

Moreover, the 2011 Croatia Progress Report confirmed the respect of civil and political rights, but among others, stressed out lack of capacities of the CSO’s (analytical and financial) for monitoring political and process policies as well as the progress in the area of promotion and protection of children's rights. Lack of a violence prevention program was specifically pointed out. In addition, the Children Ombudsman in her report for the year 2010 stated that "special programs, for example violence prevention programs are implemented insufficiently. Potentials of the civil sector in this segment are not used”. Also, need for collecting data about the real number of children that are victims of all forms of violence was noted and need to enhance cooperation between the units, centers for social welfare, police, justice, NGOs and others key stakeholders to enhance protection of the children. 

 

Parents’ Association “Step by step” through project “Enhance children’s right to be safe” aimed to address following problems

- lack of capacities of the CSO’Ss for monitoring political and process policies and advocacy in area of promotion and protection of children's rights; 

- collecting missing data about implementation of measures foreseen in the National Plan on local and regional level; 

- lack of coordination and implementation of measures in the units; 

- slow and inconsistent intervention in cases of violence as well as the collaboration of institutions in the protection of children (police, courts, schools, social welfare); 

- lack of long term strategies, plans and action programs on regional and lack of National Strategies for the promotion and protection of children against all forms of violence on national level.

 

Hence, the aim of the project was to advocate and influence the improvement of the implementation of legislation that protects and promotes the child's right to be safe from violence, and the project was divided into two key phases:

1. The implementation of the first studies to determine the current difficulties in the implementation of regulations that protect and promote the child's right to be safe from violence.

2. Upon the results of research and recommendations resulting from this research, bringing together decision makers, key stakeholders, including parents and youth and on evidence based data encourage the dialogue in order to improve the implementation of the regulations to ensure better protection of children from violence.

 

What have we established by this research?

Results of the research pointed to three groups of problems related to the protection of children from violence:

1. Problems related to legislation

2. Problems related to law enforcement

3. Problems related to cooperation between key factors of protection of children from violence

Problems related to legislation include: the lack of regulations, particularly the lack of implementing regulations (regulations, protocols, operational plans) or inapplicable regulations; hyper production, or to be more exact too often creation of new regulations or amendments to regulations that hinder and obstruct the realization, which is particularly visible in the area of social policy and the need for simplifying and focusing on priority areas having previously made the assessment situation and needs.

In the area of law enforcement we observed four groups of problems: inefficiency of the system of protection, lack of skilled personnel, centralization of the system and the need for prevention and education. 

The lack of enforcement of the regulations, powerlessness and the lack of sanctions system are recognized as problems. Nurseries state that in the 44% of the cases they do not report violence against children, and schools do not report violence in 55% of cases. Staff from the health care system also describe how to avoid reporting violence. The most prominent reasons for not reporting are: lack of trust in the system and the view that the system is corrupt or that the reporting the violence will be even more harmful to the child, fear of complications with the court, the error in its sole discretion, media reactions and revenge of the person who committed the violence as an attitude that he/she will resolve the problem better without reporting it. 

One of the key aspects of the effectiveness of the system of protection of children from violence is adequate cooperation between the institutions. However, problems identified in cooperation key factors of protection of children from violence are: lack of inter-sectorial cooperation and coordinated action, mistrust of associations and non-recognition of the possibilities of partnership organizations as well as problems related to the potential of educational, health, social welfare system and the judiciary to adequately protect children from violence. Study participants gave the lowest grade to emergency response and cooperation within the system.

 

What are we advocating?

- Based on the results of the research, action team and the group of project experts created recommendations for successful implementation of regulations and the protection of children from violence:

- Systematic training on legislation for employees of kindergartens and schools

- More efficient system where by reporting of the violence, child protection would be immediate  

- Penalties for parents who do not cooperate with the institutions in the system of promotion and protection of the rights of children (school, kindergarten…)

- Bigger number of experts in psychosocial support to children victims of violence

- Systematic training of employees of kindergartens and schools on the incidence and forms of violence

- Allocating more finance for the system of protection of children who are victims of domestic violence

- Systematic training on techniques for solving conflicts among peers

- Greater involvement of educators and teachers in coordination with other professionals

- Harsher punishment of professionals who do not report violence

- Harsher punishment of parents who neglect / abuse children

- The system where the reporting the violence would mean the protection of the person who reported it 

- Educating children to be safe from violence and to know where to turn

- Educating children for resolving peer conflicts on a systematic level

- Legislation that would allow timely punishment of the perpetrators of violence

- High-quality rehabilitation treatment of perpetrators of violence

- Legislation that would allow the timely removal of children from violent families

 

In five counties, in cooperation with NGOs, partners on the project, we encourage dialogue with key stakeholders (CSW, police, judiciary, media, education and education, local government, civil society organizations and others). As advocacy material we used the results and recommendations. Also, stakeholders have pointed out some of the needs and recommendations and are listed below:

- The need for systematic education of all stakeholders, from youth and parents to experts, along with information on the regulations further emphasis should be on developing competence, personal responsibility and motivation for action

- More investment in the development of parental skills, with emphasis on the involvement of all parents in educational activities and building partnership of parents and professionals

-  The importance of establishing effective institutional mechanisms of cross-sectorial and inter-ministerial cooperation to avoid mistrust between systems and additional victimization of children and families

-  Activities and programs supporting children and families should be based on identified needs and scientifically monitored and evaluated. Such examples of good practice should be encouraged and provided with support

-  Encouragement of the exchange of information among experts and urgency procedures for child protection

-  Use the possibilities of local government in order to build a more efficient local mechanisms of action in accordance with local needs

-  Use the resources of associations and build partnerships with institutions. It is important to increase the recognition of the activities of NGOs, but also evaluate their programs and to support the implementation of programs that have demonstrated effectiveness

 

CONCLUSION: it is necessary to keep the primary best interest of the child and his well-being and encourage personal and professional responsibility to protect the safety of children.

 

GOOD PRACTICE ARISING OUT OF THIS PROJECT:

In this section we point out three examples of good practice which are derived based on the results of research and dialogue on key stakeholders advocacy activities:

Rijeka, 29th October 2014 round-table held in Rijeka on "Child safety is (not) my job", organized by the Parents Association "Step by Step" from Zagreb and the Association ROLE MODEL from Rijeka. The round table is a continuation of cooperation between these two Association on the project "Strengthen the right of children to be safe." As the part of the Round Table, results of research conducted were presented to nearly 6,000 participants around the Croatia in the knowledge and application of regulations that protect children from violence. As part of the dialogue with key stakeholders and at the initiative of the Association U.Z.O.R.  from Rijeka, stakeholders of system to protect children from violence in the Primorje-Gorski Kotar County will hold additional meetings in smaller groups together to agree the steps and procedures that will enhance their cooperation in dealing for the purpose of protecting children from violence

Pula, 30th October 2014 round-table held in Pula on "Child safety is (not) my job", organized by the Parents Association "Step by Step" from Zagreb and the Association Alfa Albone from Istria. The round table is a continuation of cooperation between these two Association on the project "Strengthen the right of children to be safe." As the part of the Round Table, results of research conducted were presented to nearly 6,000 participants around the Croatia in the knowledge and application of regulations that protect children from violence. Based on the presented results and advocacy activities, City of Labin and Association Alfa Albona will organize in the City of Labin, regular meetings with the participation of employees of the system of protection of children from violence and to devise a plan for better mutual cooperation.

Dubrovnik, 2nd December 2014 – Workshop on "We are all the system" organized by the Association of parents "Step by Step" from Zagreb and the Association for the Protection of Children, Youth and Families "Feniks" from Dubrovnik was held last week in Dubrovnik. The purpose of the workshop was to draft a plan of concrete measures for more effective protection of children in the area of Dubrovnik-Neretva County, in which the organizers encourage worrying about results of research conducted on nearly 6,000 participants around the Croatia in the knowledge and application of regulations that protect children from violence. “The recommendations we have made in recent weeks at round tables in Dubrovnik, Osijek, Pula, Rijeka and Zagreb should not remain a dead letter, so last week we joined forces with key stakeholders in Dubrovnik so we can make a plan of concrete measures to protect children and young people in Dubrovnik-Neretva County. All of us together make the system and all together we must work to ensure that our children and young people are safe from violence", said Marina Trbus, head of the project "Strengthen the right of children to be safe”. 

At the workshop, the participants were welcomed by Miho Katičić, Head of the Department for Education, Sports, Social Welfare and Civil Society of the City of Dubrovnik, while on the issue of protection of children and young people from violence spoke Sanja Oreskovic Vrbanc from the Association of "Children First" and Irena Bohač of Association parents “Step by Step". They agreed upon the plan that will be implemented next year in Dubrovnik-Neretva County, and includes four activities under the action plan to improve social services in the county, and is driven by:

- Create a catalog of social services in education (in kindergartens and schools),

- Maintenance 1-2 training for professionals annually,

- Giving presentations on models of cooperation with civil society organizations and,

- Regular maintenance, three times a year, meetings of all relevant ministries and sectors in order to improve working practices.

Activities will be implemented in cooperation City Department of Social Services, Dubrovnik-Neretva County, Centre for Social Welfare, the Association "Feniks" and the Society "Our Children", kindergartens and schools.

 

RECOMMENDATIONS OF YOUTH

6th October 2014 at the Round Table were presented the results of research related to violence against and among children. The research was conducted in the first half of this year in the framework of the project "Strengthen the right of children to be safe." Fifteen Zagreb high school pupils took part in the focus group (V. high school, private high school General, Classical High School, Trade School, School for midwives) and presented his perspective on the study and the results and come to certain conclusions and recommendations which we quote:

 We call for moral values and civic duty/initiative regarding the reporting of cases of violence against and among children

 Increase awareness that violence is not the way ("Violence is a faster way to solve the problem") and hold it by increasing the efficiency of the system

 Introduce sanctions for failure to report violence as an example to others

 Include in the curriculum of education on issues of violence, discuss topics and to make them more life to encourage people to initiative

 Introduce the faculties of pedagogical orientation courses about violence / work with children with various mental and physical disabilities; increase practical engagement

 Introduce education which will not be ex cathedra but where young people will be actively involved and learn practical ways to respond to cases of abuse

 Introduce an obligation to professionals working with children and actually "see" children whose safety care

 When training on violence exclude the passivity of people which they are presented and put the subject in everyday content and provoke emotion participants

 As for the employment of professionals working with children to introduce criteria assess the ability of dealing with situations of violence

 Accelerate the process of reporting violence to resolve cases at the level of all institutions in the process itself would not have caused greater effects on an already traumatized child

 To eradicate camouflage procedure for dealing with violence and lies and ignorance that is behind the delay in the proceedings

 Develop quality television and other emissions that include the participation of young people and giving enough airtime to themes of violence

 Prevention deeds, not words