"It is important to empower and educate experts!"
UNICEF works with partners to strengthen the capacity of experts in the field of child protection
"As an expert and representative of a social welfare institution, I am aware of the importance of lifelong learning and constant empowerment of professionals. This is important for their work in general but especially when working with children and families who live at risk. It is important because it is a challenging scope of work where knowledge and skills are never enough," points out Štefica Karačić, president of the Croatian Association of Social Workers.
The importance of access to high-quality child protection services and support for families and caregivers is particularly emphasized in times of rapidly growing humanitarian crises, such as the war in Ukraine. Millions of people had to leave their homes and move to neighbouring countries in just a few weeks. The most vulnerable among them are children, especially unaccompanied children, children separated from their families, evacuated from institutions, children with disabilities and other complex needs.
To support Ukrainian refugee children and their families and ensure better response by EU states to their needs and rights, Swiss State Secretariat for Migration SEM and UNICEF Regional Office for Europe and Central Asia have designed an emergency project “Supporting integration of refugee and migrant children in host EU countries” as a response to a crisis caused by the war in Ukraine. This project is funded by the Swiss Government.
In Croatia, the project aims to ensure that the most vulnerable children from Ukraine and their caregivers, including unaccompanied asylum-seeking children (UASC), have access to integrated and high-quality child protection and family support services that enable prevention, early identification, referral and provision of services in accordance with the child’s best interest, thus ensure adequate international protection and child protection.
One of UNICEF Croatia implementing partners is the Croatian Association of Social Workers (CASW) which is working hard in the implementation of programme activities relating to integrated child protection services and interventions, including family outreach workers. It is expected for the high-quality curriculum and professional capacities for the implementation of professional training for professionals in the social welfare system to be developed, including family outreach workers, on supporting the most vulnerable children and their caregivers in migrations, including those from Ukraine and UASC.
Special focus was put on strengthening the capacity of experts to provide services in the community and work with children and families in migration, especially those displaced from Ukraine who were exposed to war trauma.
"We want to educate and empower experts so that they can help children and families who came to Croatia from Ukraine and have a traumatic experience in creating a new reality for them and with them and adequately respond to their complex needs", continues Štefica Karačić and points out that this project has encouraged the development of a structured curriculum for experts and the implementation of measures aimed at child protection (measures of professional assistance or supervision).
In Croatia, around 3.500 measures of professional help or supervision are issued annually, covering around 7.000 children. This speaks in favour of the importance of such a curriculum for experts, who will now be additionally educated and empowered so that they can provide families at risk with the necessary support in developing parenting skills and thus positively influenced the prevention of family separation.
"Our goal is to further increase the quality of the work of experts and to educate them so that they are ready to deal with the challenges and complexities they encounter and provide quality response to the needs of every family", concluded Štefica Karačić.
In all project countries (Croatia, Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland, Romania and Slovak Republic) UNICEF will work in partnership with national and local authorities, civil society implementing partners, service providers, social work and social service workforce professionals, children, carers, families and communities. At the regional level, UNICEF will continue working with UNHCR to further advocate for the child-specific focus in all interventions related to Ukrainian children-refugees.
An emergency project “Supporting integration of refugee and migrant children in host EU countries” was jointly designed by the Swiss State Secretariat for Migration SEM and UNICEF Regional Office for Europe and Central Asia, as a response to a crisis caused by the war in Ukraine. This project is funded by the Swiss Government.