For the comprehensive protection of children and families it is not enough to ensure only quality programs and services, but also to continuously invest in cooperation with different stakeholders and advocate the needs and interests of children.
Association Children First actively encourages development of both intra- and intersect-oral cooperation, and in advocating children’s rights follows national strategies, statutes and laws.
The Association initiates cooperation and partnerships in accordance with public needs for preventive programs, social services and non-institutional education, working to develop a quality network of child and family protective services in Republic of Croatia and the region.
During the history of our Association, we have achieved cooperation with relevant stakeholders on State, regional and local levels, including various NGOs and the academic community, both individually and within the Coordination of Children’s Associations (KUD) framework. We have successfully carried out numerous programs and projects in cooperation with kindergartens and primary schools in Zagreb and Velika Gorica.
From cooperation under Children’s NGO sub-sector (2004), to formal organizing in 2007, and until today – when the Coordination of Children’s Associations (KUD) counts 29 members, Children First has continually been taking part in its governing bodies and in such way contributing to development of the sub-sector.
In 2012, when the KUD became a member of Eurochild – European international network of organizations who work to improve the lives of children and youth, Children First continues to contribute to the same goal. Since reaching its full EU membership in 2013, marking all of EU’s strategies as obligatory for Croatia, participation in the Eurochild becomes an advocacy strategy of even greater importance.
Children First is a member of the Croatian Anti-Poverty Network, a national network of associations and natural persons engaged in providing services and advocating for the poor, vulnerable and socially excluded persons and public policies in the area of poverty in Croatia. Since June 28, 2014, the network also acts as a member of the European Anti-Poverty Network (EAPN).
Furthermore, it is a member of the Network of Organizations serving children and youth with behavioural problems.
The Association already has its representatives in the national (Children’s Council) and the municipal (Social Service City Council) key bodies, and is recognized as a key stakeholder in social care reform and in social planning initiated by the Ministry of Demographics, Family, Youth and Social Policy, and other social service and educational institutions.
Children First invests many of its resources into cooperation development with the City of Zagreb. Recurrently, the city supports it financially (ever since 1997), and serves as an important stakeholder that ensures child and family protection services locally. The Association’s executive director is a member of Zagreb Social Service City Council, which is, as stated in the Law on Social Service, a key mechanism for planning and development of social services in the local community.
The authorities of Velika Gorica town recognize the quality of Association’s work as well, and apart from being another source of direct and indirect support, continually work as an important partner in many of Association’s projects and programs.
Children First continually collaborates with Zagreb Department of Social Services (Dubrava and Sesvete office branches), yet another strategic partner and an important stakeholder on the local level. A long-term cooperation has resulted in new partnerships, for example that with Osijek Department of Social Services and Vukovar Department of Social Services (both through The Power of Change in Youth collaboration). This has generated the expanding of counseling services for children without adequate parental care to Osječko-baranjska and Vukovarsko-srijemska County territory.
Collaboration with kindergartens and primary schools in Zagreb and Velika Gorica is an example of integrated service providing in local communities, and because of that of great importance.
Concerning the academic community, Association’s involvement manifests itself in a form of field practicum for students. That means more than 250 hours of field practice annually, provided to approximately 15 students of Faculty of Education and Rehabilitation Sciences (Group Approach in Social Pedagogy Interventions course) and Faculty of Law, Department of Social Work (Introduction to Counselling course). In this way, students are given a direct opportunity to be engaged in an individual and in a group therapy process, all while being supervised by experts.
Children First continually works with akin NGOs (Step by Step, Brave Phone, Ambidexter, Play, Birch), which contributes to expanding and development of quality social services network aimed at child and family protection in the Republic of Croatia.