Novak Djokovic and Michel Saint-Lot visit the project “Supporting Families At Risk”BELGRADE, 8 May 2014 – Serbia’s best tennis player, Novak Djokovic, and UNICEF Serbia Representative, Michel Saint-Lot, visited the Children’s Centre in Zvecanska, Belgrade, where they talked with families that receive support from Family Outreach Workers.
The initiative is a new community-based service, which supports families at risk of separation and those facing multiple deprivation. The service supported by the Novak Djokovic Foundation and UNICEF, entitled „Supporting Families at Risk“, is currently reaching out to 120 families in four cities in Serbia: Belgrade, Nis, Kragujevac and Novi Sad. The families, which met with the famous tennis player and the UNICEF Serbia Representative, are part of a group of 34 families that are currently included in the programme in the city of Belgrade.
Djokovic used this opportunity to highlight that the support and assistance provided to families, that are particularly vulnerable in these hard economic conditions, are extremely important, and that he is very proud of the first results achieved by the “Family Outreach Worker” service.“
When talking to the families that receive this service, I heard how much it helped them, made them stronger and reduced the risk of the children leaving home and being placed into care. I know, from personal experience, how important it is to have a strong, united family, as the support of my family was crucial for my personal growth and the achievement of my goals. UNICEF and the Ministry of Labour, Employment and Social Policy have accomplished a lot by initiating this service, and we are very proud to be a part of it. If 400 families and 1.000 children, which are planned to be included in this project, come out stronger, overcome crises and stay together, it will be a great thing for our society,” said Djokovic, the UNICEF National Ambassador for Serbia.
Both families that Novak Djokovic and Michel Saint-Lot met with today, faced multiple deprivation and many difficulties in the past. These included material poverty, disability, mental health problems as well as conflicts among family members. As a result of this, some families were at risk of separation with children ‘at the edge’ of entering care or having been in formal care. They said the “Family Outreach Worker” service significantly strengthened their relationships, helped them find the initiative to address problems and improved their family wellbeing.
"Being a parent is one of the most important responsibilities that we have in life. Yet parents receive very little support. This service is about helping parents “do a better job” and helping them provide their children with a family environment in which the children can reach their full potential. Globally, collaboration with private foundations is very important for UNICEF. Here in Serbia, we are pleased to have the “Novak Djokovic” Foundation as a partner to support the government efforts in preventing the placement of children in institutions and in developing services for families at risk”, stressed Michel Saint-Lot.
The aim of this innovative programme is to provide support to those families that most excluded and that are experiencing multiple deprivation. The service can help prevent the removal of children from their biological families, and, specifically the strengthening of families to cope with crises situations and to enable them to provide their children with caring, safe and stimulating environments.
The project has been fully implemented since the end of September, when all Family Outreach Workers completed their training.
The pilot service is being carried out in four children’s centres in Serbia: Zvecanska in Belgrade, Dusko Radovic in Nis, the Centre for Development "Kneginja Ljubica" in Kragujevac and the “SOS Children's Village” in Novi Sad. The Republic Institute for Social Protection is coordinating the efforts and has played a key role in conceptualizing the service and providing mentoring support throughout. The Institute will be assessing service outcomes and costs and mapping out options for mainstreaming the service into the regular community service provision in Serbia.
The goal of this three-year project is to reach 400 families and more than 1.000 children. The "Novak Djokovic" Foundation is funding this project with US $750.000.