A newly equipped Developmental Counselling Unit for children with developmental disabilities and difficulties and their families opened in the Kraljevo Primary Health Centre
As part of the cooperation between UNICEF and the Ministry of Health of the Republic of Serbia, the newly equipped Development Counselling Unit was officially opened in the Primary Health Centre in Kraljevo. The goal is to enable timely support for children with disabilities and difficulties and their families through the work of an intersectoral team for family-oriented early interventions.
“Our first contact was unbelievable because for the first time I encountered unexpected support and, above all, understanding. After we completed our interview, and our transformation began, my family's life changed dramatically. Home visits were of great importance, as well as other activities, which I carried out according to the planned programme. I was at the end of my strength, but family-oriented early interventions are the best thing that can be provided to families facing similar problems,” believes Sandra Pesic, mother of a child who was involved in the PORI program.
According to experts' estimates, around 60,000 children under the age of 6 in Serbia need early intervention services, and it has been proven that if they are recognized in time, developmental difficulties can be overcome before starting school in as many as 70 percent of children.
“The national programme for the improvement of early childhood development foresees that in every district there is at least one development counselling unit that provides support to families of children with difficulties and developmental disabilities up to the age of 6, in their own space and through mobile teams and tele-counselling. In previous years, in cooperation with UNICEF, we managed to improve the capacities of health centres and development counselling units in 15 out of 25 districts in Serbia, in a total of 19 municipalities. Kraljevo is one of them and I congratulate them on the results achieved. We will continue to work together on the expansion of this network of counselling units, providing legislative and financial support for their sustainability and quality, and on increasing personnel capacity, so that services are available to every child and family that needs support,” said Dr Jelena Jankovic, Assistant Minister of Health for the Sector of Public Health and Programme Health Care.
The family-oriented model of support takes place primarily through work in the field and home visits in the family and in preschool, that is, in the peer community, as the most natural environment for the child in which he or she learns best and progresses in development.
“Early intervention connects systems and experts from health, education and social welfare sectors, respecting the strengths and needs of parents. It also provides the necessary and intensive support to the child and family. To achieve these goals, well-equipped, modern, and sustainable services and competent professionals are necessary. Our goal is to, together with relevant ministries and partners, create conditions that will enable the services provided by developmental counselling units and early intervention teams to reach every child with developmental disabilities and their parents in Serbia, in all 25 districts in our country,” said Dr Jelena Zajeganovic Jakovljevic, UNICEF Serbia’s Health and Early Childhood Development Specialist.
The new development counselling unit is equipped with furniture, digital equipment, and didactic materials, which enables high-quality work with young children and their families. It is planned that the development counselling unit in Kraljevo will grow into a regional centre for supporting children and families from Kraljevo, Vrnjacka Banja and Raska.
“We believed that the most modern and effective approaches in working with children with developmental difficulties and disabilities, the so-called PORI services, should be brought closer to children and parents who need them and made available where they live, grow, play and learn with their peers - in their home, preschool, and local community. We combined resources and experts from the health centre, preschool and centre for social work to include as many children and families as possible and to respond to as many of their needs as possible with a uniform team approach,” stated Dr Mirjana Krcevinac, Acting Director of the Kraljevo Primary Health Centre.
In addition to UNICEF Serbia, the Ministry of Health, and the City of Kraljevo, the development counselling unit has also been equipped thanks to the support of the private sector. As many as 30 companies from Kraljevo and its surroundings provided financial support and donated funds to UNICEF so that the development counselling unit could be equipped in accordance with the most modern standards. In addition to companies from the local community, the furnishing of the development counselling unit was also supported by H&M.
“Virdzinija d.o.o. is a family company that has been dedicated for years to improving the quality of life of its employees and their families, as well as the entire local community. We firmly believe that the principle of helping the community in which we operate is one of the most important business principles, while humanity and caring for the most vulnerable are key to coping with everyday difficulties together. We live in times of great crises and challenges when sustainable business is the most important thing. And there is no sustainability if we forget that children also have rights and that we, as businesspeople, are also responsible for helping them realize their rights. We gladly accepted UNICEF's invitation and decided to participate in the implementation of such an important project. The opening of the development counselling unit in Kraljevo, which will support children with developmental disabilities, shows how solidarity can change the course of one's destiny. We are very pleased that, together with other companies from Kraljevo and the surrounding area, we have united, through cooperation with UNICEF, to ensure that children and families from our region receive necessary support. The Virdzinija d.o.o. company continues to spread the culture of solidarity and remains committed to the creation and development of a healthy and strong community so that the entire society can grow and prosper,” said Aleksandar Trifunovic, owner of the company Virdzinija d.o.o. from Kraljevo.
UNICEF and the Ministry of Health, together with the Ministries of Education, Social Protection, Family Care and Demography, have so far supported the implementation of family-oriented early intervention services in 19 cities and municipalities in Serbia. More than 500 professionals from health and social protection systems and preschool institutions were trained, of which 120 are involved in direct work with families. More than 3,000 children and their families received support in the previous year, of which more than 240 were included in intensive family-oriented early intervention services. All these centres received digital equipment, some assistive technologies, and didactic materials.
Through the campaign Dad, Mom, we are with you!, UNICEF raised 12 million dinars thanks to donations from citizens and companies, of which more than 2 million dinars were invested in equipping the development counselling unit, preschool and centre for social work and training of the PORI team in Kraljevo.