Let’s Open the Door Wide, Mum and Dad are Entering

5th National Conference on Early Childhood Development and Parenting

21 December 2021
Konferencija 2
UNICEF Srbija / 2021

Belgrade, 21 December 2021 - The 5th National Conference on Early Childhood Development and Parenting - Let’s Open the Door Wide, Mum and Dad are Entering was held today in the presence of a large number of parents, caregivers, decision-makers, experts and practitioners from different fields of early childhood development. They discussed the latest research, practices and public policies in this area with the aim of expanding the service network and upgrading the system of support for children and families in Serbia. 

The conference was organised by UNICEF in co-operation with the Government of the Republic of Serbia and with support of the Austrian Development Agency and LEGO Foundation. The conference was opened by Dr. Mirsad Djerlek, State Secretary at the Ministry of Health, Prof. Dr. Slavica Djukic Dejanovic, Special Advisor to the Prime Minister of the Republic of Serbia for the UN 2030 Agenda, Karin Traunmüller, Deputy Ambassador of Austria to Serbia, and Deyana Kostadinova, UNICEF Representative in Serbia.  

"Investing in family and early childhood development is of great importance for the government and society, which is why I believe that cooperation between UNICEF and the Ministry of Health is essential, as we jointly invest in the future of our children. The Government of the Republic of Serbia is continuously working on upgrading services and assisting families, implementing numerous projects aimed at supporting family and early childhood development, and in this regard, I would like to take the opportunity to announce the launch of the Centre for Early Childhood Development and Inclusion, the largest and most modern one in the region", emphasised Dr. Mirsad Djerlek, State Secretary at the Ministry of Health of the Government of the Republic of Serbia.

The conference presented the benefits of playful parenting, preventive parental mental health care and early interventions with different methods of supporting parents through support groups where there are additional challenges in child development. 

"All of us together need to support parenting, as it is particularly sensitive with regard to the mental health of parents, especially mothers and fathers in the postpartum period, but also parents of prematurely born children, children with chronic diseases and disabilities. These are all important prerequisites for helping parents accept their child and take special care of it, eliminating stress and its secondary effects as much as possible", said Prof. Dr. Slavica Djukic Dejanovic, Special Advisor to the Prime Minister of Serbia for the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The conference was an opportunity to present the positive results of parenting programmes, as well as to raise questions and further opportunities for scaling up and sustainability of quality parenting programmes through continuous investment in the family-oriented support system.

"We can be proud of the positive results achieved so far. Now is time to expand the network of quality services to reach every child and every parent across Serbia. This jubilee conference is a good opportunity to open dialogue on the need for new national and local legislation, financial allocations and additional capacities to improve systems and bring effective parenting services in Serbia to scale. All this based on knowledge, practices and innovation from the country and the world", stressed Deyana Kostadinova, UNICEF Representative in Serbia.

The Government of the Republic of Serbia supports early childhood development and parenthood through the alignment of laws and the provision of funding for their implementation. 

"Today's conference on early intervention is a call for joint action by all sectors and society as a whole, to support this pro-natalist policy measure reaching a significant number of families in Serbia that face the development risks of their children," said Milka Milovanovic Minic, State Secretary at the Ministry of Family Welfare and Demographics. 

Efforts towards supporting children and families in the early childhood is financially supported by the Austrian Development Agency. Deputy Ambassador of Austria to Serbia, Karin Traunmüller, said the project topic is particularly relevant at the time of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"The pandemic and all the consequences it entails were, and they still are, a test for all of us. The pandemic has challenged economic development and created enormous pressure on the capacity of institutions, as well as high levels of uncertainty at the social, political and family levels. It had a particularly huge effect on the most vulnerable members of society, among them children, who were deprived not only of education, but even more, of normal childhood activities. This project, implemented by UNICEF with the financial support of the Austrian Development Agency, focuses on social inclusion, equitable distribution of opportunities for the most vulnerable and marginalised children, children from ethnic minorities and children with developmental difficulties," said Ms. Traunmiler. 

In addition to national experts, the participants of the Conference included foreign experts: Prof. Dr.  Frances Aboud, Department of Psychology, McGill University, Montreal, Canada; Prof. Dr. Tamsen Rochat, Centre for Excellence in Human Development, University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa; Jasna Murgel, PhD, lawyer, advocate for the rights of children with disabilities, who initiated the adoption of the Law on Early Interventions in Slovenia. 

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