Experts’ support from the youngest age is key for the growth and development of every child!

The EU Child Guarantee aims to guarantee every child and every parent access to experts and key services, no matter who they are or where they live

Žena s djevojčicama
20 September 2021

In Medjimurje County, where the UNICEF Office for Croatia, in cooperation with implementing partners, carries out the pilot program “Phase III: Testing the Child Guarantee in Croatia,” funded by the European Union, many inspirational stories are told.

We spent a day following the activities of the international humanitarian non-governmental organization Médecins du Monde (Doctors of the World) which, as an implementing partner of the UNICEF Office for Croatia, takes part in the implementation of the pilot program by providing beneficiaries with integrated child protection and family support services. They carry out their activities in the Roma settlements of Piškorovec, Orehovica, Parag, Pribislavec, Podturen and Kuršanec, and we visited them in Kuršanec. This is where Regional Kindergarten Pirgo is located, which carries out the preschool program for children from the settlement, and which is part of Cipelica kindergarten from Čakovec. 

As part of the pilot program, the MdM team was expanded and several associates, who are also part of Roma national minority were employed. Moreover, health professionals, a gynecologist and a pediatrician, were engaged, and now they visit settlements two to four times a month on averageA gynecologist and a pediatrician have an advisory role and, in conversation with beneficiaries, they meet those who need further intervention – through finding a doctor or through the engagement and coordination of some of the implementing partners.

We were welcomed by associates Milana Hozmec and Marijana Sabo, and soon we also met Ksenija Bartolić-Ban, a nurse who is at the disposal to beneficiaries every day, even to just provide advice.

The schedule of activities included a visit from the pediatrician Prim. Marija Jungvirth, MD, MSc, well known by many, who won us over with a professional yet warm approach to everyone who talked to her that day. Pediatrician Jungvirth recognized immediately all of her little patients and their families and showed us how committed she is to her profession and participating in the activities of the pilot program.

Although this wasn’t “his” day according to the schedule, we should also mention gynecologist and obstetrician Branimir Krištović, MD, PhD, who is also part of the team. Both his colleagues and women and girls from the settlement told us that Branimir willingly and patiently provides answers to all questions by future mothers, followed by giving them careful and expert advice regarding the necessary steps for bringing healthy babies into the world.

And in order for every team member to overcome the language barrier and carry out activities successfully, but also to get closer to children and families, since June the MdM team has also included Patricija, Lidija and Kristina Bogdan who speak Bayash and know families from the settlement.  

In the Roma settlement of Kuršanec we met curious children and their parents. They happily showed us where they lived and shared with us their wishes and dreams. We learned how they spend their time and what makes them the happiest, but also what their goals are in raising their children. The relationship between members of the MdM team and families in the settlement is truly extraordinary because it is full of mutual respect and confidence, with lots of hugs and laughter. Professional support is colored by understanding and the willingness to place oneself in the shoes of those who need support.

As we entered the settlement, we met Valent, a father of three children. Paulina, Larisa and Viktor are his pride, and he likes to spends his free time playing and studying with them. Paulina and Viktor already go to school, while Larisa is still enjoying her kindergarten days. It didn’t take long for them to share with us their skills, so dad Valent and Viktor showed us how much they enjoy playing with a ball, but most of all how they enjoy spending time together. In addition to playing football, Viktor likes riding a bicycle, and his dad showed us that he is equally adept in playing with dolls with his little girls. Dad Valent has a clear goal for his children – he wants all three of them to receive education and attend school regularly, so he is especially happy that Viktor likes school, most of all art class and doing homework.

Otac i kći
Father Valent and daughter Paulina are playing with a doll outside their house in the Roma settlement of Kuršanec. The „Phase III: Testing the Child Guarantee“ pilot program, which is being implemented by UNICEF and its implementing partners, and financed by the European Union, with the aim to ensure access to child care services, inclusive and quality pre-school education and early childhood intervention services.

We visited another dad named Valent, who we found playing with his son Renato and talking with the experts. The time that Renato spends with experts is extremely important in his growth and development.

„Renato is a child with a developmental disorder, along with delayed speech development,” explains doctor Jungvirth and adds that dad Valent goes to all his examinations and follow-ups, including in Zagreb. Renato won us over with his smile, which shines the brightest in the arms of his dad Valent.

Otac sa sinom na biciklu
Father Valent is holding his son Renato, who is sitting on a bike. Renato is a child with developmental difficulties. One of the objectives of the „Phase III: Testing the Child Guarantee“ pilot program, which is implemented by UNICEF and its implementing partners, is ensuring access to early intervention services and improving access to free services for children with disabilities.

The story of a little girl called Snježana, who is four months old, and her mum Višnja also shows the importance of experts’ support from the youngest age. This is a story in which the commitment of teachers from Pirgo kindergarten played an important role. Mum Višnja came to Pirgo to enroll her children in the kindergarten and play center, and she brought along her youngest daughter Snježana to these visits. This was enough for teachers with long-term experience and professional competencies to notice that Snježana has certain developmental difficulties. They recognized certain difficulties and advised mum to, with the help of the MdM team, contacts professionals from Medjimurje Association for Early Childhood Intervention – MURID. Today mum Višnja practices with Snježana at home and with experts and is part of the pilot program “Phase III: Testing the Child Guarantee” in Croatia that aims to connect experts in order to ensure that children and families have access to key services.

Majka s kćeri
Mother Višnja is holding her daughter Snježana, who has developmental difficulties and is a beneficiary of the „Phase III: Testing the Child Guarantee“ pilot program which UNICEF implements in collaboration with implementation partners. One of the objectives of the pilot program is to ensure access to early intervention services and to improve access to free services for children with disabilities.

The pilot program „Phase III: Testing the Child Guarantee,” funded by the European Union, is implemented in 7 EU countries, with the aim of ensuring that all children have access to basic services, such as healthcare, education, nutritious food, quality housing and childcare.

In Croatia, this pilot program is aimed primarily at children with disabilities, children in precarious family situations, and children of racial or national minorities. It is implemented in seven municipalities of Medjimurje County, and through the cooperation and knowledge of implementing partners, interventions are carried out in three areas: integrated child protection and family support services, early childhood intervention services, and access to quality pre-primary education.

© UNICEF, 2021 “The information and views set out in this document are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official opinion of the European Union. Neither the European Union institutions and bodies nor any person acting on their behalf may be held responsible for the use which may be made of the information contained therein.

The international humanitarian non-governmental organization Médecins du Monde (Doctors of the World) is an implementing partner of the UNICEF Office for Croatia for the implementation of the pilot program “Phase III: Testing the Child Guarantee in Croatia,” funded by the European Union.