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Migration and Home Affairs

Social work with children and young people in risk

Country
Croatia
Target Audience
Youth/pupils/studentsFamiliesLocal community organisations/NGOs
key themes association
Family supportFormal/informal education
Peer Reviewed practice
No
Year
2019

Organisation

The Samobor Social Welfare Centre

Is a government institution with public authority, funded by the Croatian Ministry for Demography, Family, Youth and Social Policy. It carries out more than 160 duties focused on promoting human rights and improving the well-being of people and families in need, people with disabilities, the protection of children’s rights and protection of the rights of minorities in our country. Professional staff in the centre are as follows: nine social workers, one psychologist, one social pedagogue, one educational rehabilitator, and three jurists.

The work involves working with people who come directly to the centre for support (counselling, informing, administration), as well as field work outside the centre’s premises (assessing living conditions and environments). Samobor Social Welfare Centre employees actively participate in local community events to raise awareness of the centre and its services. The centre cooperates with local organisations connected with youth, social welfare and sustainable community development.

Type of Organisation: Governmental institution

Project description:

The Samobor Social Welfare Centre in Croatia works with children and young people at risk, and with children and young people having risky and socially unacceptable behaviours. It applies a multidisciplinary approach involving social workers, social pedagogues, psychologists and sometimes jurists. The centre exists to protect children from harm, to safeguard their rights and interests, and to provide them with opportunities for development and growth.

Work at the Department for Children, Youth and Family in the Samobor Social Welfare Centre is conducted mostly through counselling with children and parents and is tailored to individuals. This work is based on the principles of respect for diversity and aims to empower children.

Children and teenagers who support or are members of extremist groups (e.g. far-right groups) are often radicalised with ideas from other members of the group they identify with. Often, they identify with extreme right-wing political parties and exhibit socially unacceptable behaviour in an attempt to demonstrate their loyalty to the group.

Compared to working on radicalisation prevention and causes, work with children and young people who are already radicalised and have adopted a certain value system is more challenging, because we must also deal with the consequences of such behaviour.

Children must bear the responsibility for their behaviour (also part of the judicial system). By attending the centre, they are also trying to change their patterns of behaviour. We try to teach them what radicalisation is and how to withstand radical ideas. We work through counselling, step by step; by setting several short-term goals, we strive to achieve the long-term goals the children have set for themselves. We keep track of their progress, and they can contact us when they encounter difficulties.

Professional staff need time to ‘redirect’ children and young people’s way of thinking, from following a detrimental course, to one that contributes to their growth and personal development. Work is focused on empowering them to upgrade their social skills and use their energy in a more productive way. We try to develop children’s awareness of the consequences of their unacceptable behaviour, and work with them on boosting their skills of assertiveness and responsibility.

The same approach and method are applied with all the children and young people who come to the centre. The duration of the process varies from person to person, depending on the depth of the problem.

Sometimes, we encounter situations where parents, owing to personal religious or national affiliations, impose on children a value system that is very extreme. Children who adopt the radical ideas and patterns of parental behaviour often display this behaviour outside the home and family, among peers — this ultimately results in children being isolated from their peers, or in them becoming more aggressive in an attempt to impose the values and patterns of behaviour on peers.

We strive to empower and teach parents about the parental role, and explain the key principles of parental care as well as what parental care implies. Parents should be first in line to help their children switch patterns and behaviours, support them daily, guide them and help them achieve the goals they have chosen for themselves, with the help of the experts at the centre. We work with parents to foster their children’s capacity for critical thought.

Deliverables:

The director of the Samobor Social Welfare Centre, Nataša Koražija (who is also a social worker), worked with the centre’s staff to set up a 5-year education programme for educators and parents. They also organised and held workshops for children and youth in elementary and secondary schools in the area of territorial jurisdiction of the Samobor Social Welfare Centre.

Part of the centre’s ongoing work is to help educate future professionals working with children and young people showing risky and socially unacceptable behaviours, and with children and young people at risk (continuous cooperation with the Department for Social Work of the Faculty of Law at the University of Zagreb). Several times a year, professors invite professionals from the centre to present their work and discuss their experiences for an audience of students. They describe aspects of everyday work in the Samobor Social Welfare Centre, as well as explain how to recognise the signs of radicalisation and other risky behaviour, and outline how they work with these children.

This has proven to be a good way to connect theory and practice, and students appreciate the insights provided by experts working professionally in the field they are studying.

Read the full practice

Contact

Contact person: Nataša Koražija
Email

Contact person: Helena Miholić
Email

Contact person: David Radošević
Telephone: (+385) 13362702
Email | Website

Address

Centar za socijalnu skrb Samobor
Zagorska ulica 1
10430 Samobor
Croatia