Building Community resilience among Roma families: How parenting workshops are promoting inclusion

Mother Jelena Bogdan attended “Growing Up Together Count Us In Plus” workshops aimed to supporting parents which are conducted as part of the pilot-programme "EU Child Guarantee"

10 November 2021

"Every moment we try to give our children everything we can, to put them first, that's how we want it to be. Our days are sometimes joyful, sometimes a bit hard, but we are always happy… and we stick together, we agree on everything and make plans together," Mother Jelena Bogdan tells us about the daily routine of her family of five. Jelena is a caring mother, and she credits “Growing Up Together Count Us In Plus” workshops which support parents as part of the pilot-programme "Phase III: Testing the Child Guarantee in Croatia" funded by the European Union.  

“Growing Up Together Count Us In Plus” workshops are carried out by Center for Parenting Support Growing Up Together and the Čakovec Social Welfare Center. They bring the topic of parenthood and strengthening parenting skills closer to the families of the Roma national minority, which is a need we have been noticing in the field, says educator, Jelena Ptiček Perković. 

Thus, the “Growing Up Together Count Us In Plus” workshops have been developed for parents raising children in difficult circumstances and additionally adapted for families of Roma national minority. 

The workshop programme consists of three parts: a workshop for parents, a workshop for children and a workshop for parents where they play together with their children. To make it easier for parents to apply what they learn during the workshops in the daily interactions with their children, a series of educational comic strips, created in collaboration with experts from the School of Animated Film Čakovec, Center for Parenting Support Growing Up Together and UNICEF accompany each workshop.  


The Growing Up Together Count Us In Plusworkshops are part of the Phase III: “Testing the Child Guarantee” pilot-programme, funded by the European Union and carried out by UNICEF Croatia in cooperation with 11 implementing partners in Medjimurje County.

"It is a parenting support program, consisting of 15 thematic workshops. We start with general topics about parenting such as: what parenting means today, how demanding it is, what am I good at and what are my strengths as a parent. Then we talk about parenting in general, about what we strive for as caregivers, about the s 4 pillars of parenting, based on what a parent should provide to a child. We then move on to some topics of child development, we also talk about brain development, what milestones children can achieve at  certain ages and what, for example, not to expect from a four-year-old in terms of development. Then we move on to discipline and here topics include: setting boundaries, developing communication skills, teaching them how to listen to children, how to establish a dialogue with them about their feelings, but also about what is happening in the world around us, as we view a parent as the first teacher to their child. Later, we look back at the childhood of the parents, what they learned from their families, what they would like to apply to their role as parents, and what they would change", explains the workshop educator Jelena Ptiček Perković. 

Finally, relationship with their partner and partnership, is the concluding topic of the workshops, where participants share how much of their partnership is reflected in their parenting.  


"We also provide a support network, where they can ask for help, we explain to them that it is not just a neighbour, sister or a husband, but that there is a well-established support system, such as Family Center, Social Welfare Center, with general practitioners, pediatricians etc“, says Ptiček Perković.  

Despite the initial fear that there would be no participants in the workshops, or that those who started attending would give up along the way, the workshops were a success and currently there is a demand and great interest for new cycle of workshops.  

Djeca na radionici
The Growing Up Together Count Us In Plus workshops are part of the Phase III: “Testing the Child Guarantee” pilot-programme, funded by the European Union and carried out by UNICEF Croatia in cooperation with 11 implementing partners in Medjimurje County.

"During the workshops, I liked the fact that everything we said remained between us, and that’s how it was from the beginning to the end of the workshop. It helped me a lot, I realized that I did not receive the support of my parents growing up, but that despite this I can provide all the support my children require. Children need attention, care, and affection of their parents. Thanks to the workshops, my son Jakov has changed a lot, he was hyperactive and misbehaved before, now he listens to me and does more than I ask from him, he does what he thinks he can and is more confident. I have seen him write and draw many times, I’ve seen him prepare his own clothes, and even for his sister, so workshops helped us a lot with that", says  Jelena. 

She thinks a lot about the future. 


"I hope that Jakov will finish elementary school and high school, that he will get a job and follow in my husband's footsteps or in his own, as he likes. But I hope he will do good, that he will have a lot of ups and not so many downs. For the girls, I also hope they will finish school and find a job, that they will have a good family and a husband like mine is", concludes Mother Jelena Bogdan. 


Lidija Vinković, Head of the Family Center Branch, Čakovec Social Welfare Center says that through these workshops, the Family Center also had the opportunity to get to know the participants better. She feels great pride because mothers came to the workshops for full 15 weeks in a row.

"Until now, they have not had the opportunity to work on themselves, on strengthening their parenting skills , because in their community such support was not even available. It was fascinating for us to observe progress from week to week, participants themselves reflected and shared on how they learned to control anger. I think that is incredibly positive that mothers accepted the positive discipline approaches we shared. It’s also great to see they adopted some new routines – feeding, sleeping, learning ... Because they often stressed that they did not know how to organize their day around their children’s needs. There are noticeable benefits for them. Mutual support is certainly something all parents and caregivers will take home with them. I think they received tools to empower them here and they recognized it. They continued socializing together after the workshops,  going on walks with the kids and to the playground. The parenting comics we shared with them to use with their children, and I think that's how they enrich their relationship within their families", Lidija Vinković says.  

The success of the workshops Growing Up Together Count Us In Plus is also attributed to Roma cultural mediators, also called Growing Up Together activists (RAZA), who help educators establish better contact with the participants of the program and overcome language barriers

"They have greatly contributed to the implementation of the workshops because some children who are included in the program do not know the Croatian language well. They helped with translation for children who have not been included in a preschool system so far.  They always encouraged me with 'let's go, let's go, let's go', and reminded me to attend workshops on Wednesdays. I think it's actually exceptionally good and positive, I hope such programs will continue with the opening of resource centers," concludes Lidija Vinković.  

Žena i dijete
Roma cultural mediator Natalija Sklepić and a girl

With the main aim of reducing child poverty and social exclusion for all children across the European Union, the European Commission, in partnership with UNICEF, is implementing a pilot-program "Phase III: Testing the Child Guarantee" in Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Germany, Italy, Lithuania and Spain. 

Croatia was given the opportunity to pilot programme Testing of the EU Child Guarantee, in cooperation with the European Commission and UNICEF, to work on solving child poverty and social exclusion. To develop new service models and best practices for children and their families, UNICEF is using its experience, partnerships and capacities by modeling integrated multidisciplinary, adequately funded family and community services in Medjimurje County, a region with limited access to child protection and family support services. UNICEF's approach includes three components: access to integrated child protection and family support services, access to early childhood education and access to integrated and coordinated early childhood intervention services. 



© UNICEF, 2021 “The information and views set out in this article 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.”

Growing Up Together Centre and Family Center Branch, Čakovec Social Welfare Center are implementing partners of the UNICEF Office in Croatia for the implementation of the pilot programme “Phase III: Testing the Child Guarantee in Croatia”, funded by the European Union.