Empowering parents and caregivers with skills to support inclusion
"I want my children to finish elementary school and high school, to have their own profession and get a job... I will encourage them in that direction. I will continue to be a caring mother", highlighted Draženka Oršoš, a mother of six who completed a cycle of 15 workshops “Growing Up Together Count Us In Plus” aimed to supporting parents in Pribislavec. Content with everything she has learned, Draženka expresses a certain regret about the workshops being over because she and the children, who go to preschool and school, got used to them.
"I didn't get to work enough with my children before these workshops. I cooked and worked at home, and now we play games around the slides and with the ball. Everything I couldn't do at home I was able to achieve here, my children have been able to play. I really liked the workshops, they were very useful and we learned a lot. The children were very happy, we had a nice time and I can say these workshops were good for them. They were eager to join them and they brought us all much happiness", explains mother Draženka.
She says that she tried to share everything she learned at the workshops with her partner and apply the new skills she learned at home. Participants, mostly mothers, shared that they didn’t know how to arrange their time, organize the day with children, thry didn’t have any routine and lacked support. After the workshops, they have adopetd positive discipline as well as feeding, sleeping and learing routines with their children.
During workhsops parents share their parenting experiences and learn new useful parenting tools, but they also seek answers to many questions. The goal is to build a positive relationship and feel deeper connections between parents and children. Furthermore, the goal is to develop children's psychological resilience, to improve social skills of parents and children, to strengthen parental and general competencies of parents and support in finding their own solutions in everyday demanding situations.
"I progressed thanks to workshops where we talked about what's bothering us at home, about our living conditions etc. I especially liked it when we talked about something that was not going well for us, and how we must work on it, how we have to try harder with and for our children.
I came to each workshop, and I got complimented for being a caring mother, like everyone else who came regularly. I am proud that we reached the goal, of completing the 15th workshop. I know it is important that children go to preschool regularly, it is important they do not stay at home because there they do not learn as much as they learn in preschool from teachers. It is also important they go to school, and my task as a parent is to ensure that they do, I have to take care of them, support them, give them advice, give them everything, love them, look after them and cuddle them. Quite simply, Mom is responsible for everything. When you give birth to a child, you become a mother and you must raise that child and be a caring mother", Draženka concludes.
Educator at the “Growing Up Together Count Us In Plus” workshops, Jelena Ptiček Perković says that, as the workshops continued, the progress of Draženka and her five-year-old Rosando was noticeable.
"By the last workshop, it seemed to me she has become more and more open. She is a lot of fun, she’s the soul of our group because she always tried to show certain things in a fun way. Progress can be seen in the sense that she managed to get her child to attend workshops, which her son did not want at first. Also, some things changed at home. She is a positive example for Moms in the community, given the new decisions she is making for her children and family. Her child is included in preschool, he attends regularl and he behaves properly", explains the educator Jelena Ptiček Perković.
The “Growing Up Together Count Us In Plus” workshops have been developed for parents raising children in difficult and resource constrained circumstances and additionally adapted for families of Roma national minority. The program of the workshops 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 at the workshops in the daily interactions with their children, comics, created in collaboration with experts from the School of Animated Film Čakovec, Center for Parenting Support Growing Up Together and UNICEF accompany each workshop.
Through a cycle of 15 workshops, the topics of parenting, setting boundaries in upbringing, partnership and relationships with children are covered.
"Parents connect very nicely through those 15 workshops. It takes three and a half months, and at first, they are a little more restrained, but later they open up, help each other, and become a stronger support network for one another and it's really great. We can definitely see the transformation of the group and them as parents, but we as educators also develop with them, we gain new knowledge, hear some stories that are different from those we have heard so far", Jelena Ptiček Perković points out.
Lidija Vinković, head of the Family Center Branch, Čakovec Social Welfare Center, says that everyone will bring with them the experience of mutual support from the workshops.
"I hope that mothers will contact us without any hesitation in case they face any difficulties. With the strength they got here and with support and trust in us educators, they can come to us and openly ask us for help in solving problems they face", Lidija Vinković says.
Workshops are carried out within the pilot-program "Phase III: Testing the Child Guarantee in Croatia ", funded by the European Union. The pilot-program is implemented by UNICEF Croatia in cooperation with implementing partners in Medjimurje County. The program is oriented towards three intervention areas - child protection and family support services, access to quality inclusive pre-primary education and access to early childhood intervention services.
"I am pleased that UNICEF recognized Medjimurje County as an area at risk of poverty and social exclusion. Čakovec Social Welfare Center is just one of the implementing partners in this project, together with our Family Center, a branch implementing Growing Up Together programs developed by the Center for Parenting Support Growing Up Together. I also think that such activities with other partners involved in the program will be particularly good, and this cross-sectoral cooperation between all institutions is especially important", concluded Lidija Vinković, head of the Family Center Branch, Čakovec Social Welfare Center.
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 the programme Testing 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 will use 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.