In the past few years we have witnessed a process of de-institutionalization, which is carried out in order to ensure better treatment of children in institutions, as well as better working conditions for employees. We often hear a variety of information about the work of the institutions for children, both positive and negative. We believe that there are variety of great experts who dedicate their life for this work and we find it important to present their individual stories.
Children's Home Zagreb is one of the largest institutions for accommodation of children in Croatia, and Ms. Aleksandra is an example of an educator who hasn`t lost enthusiasm and dedication.
We are honored to share her story.
What is your function in Children's House Zagreb, and how long have you been working in this position?
I am an educator, and have been working in that position for the last 20 years in the children's institution, for 17 years I have been working in this particular institution. I’ve been working on diagnostic jobs in Education Center in Dugave for three years. Currently we have 18 children here in our establishment, aged 14-18, so it is mostly high school children.
What kind of direct work activities do you omplement with children?
I follow children and their everyday activities. I take care of them waking up in the morning, getting breakfast, getting ready for school, I question them for school material, take care of their doctor, psychologist or psychiatrist appointments. Of course, I am here every day for support and conversation. My job is to get to know the children, to know their rhythm and their needs.
Could you share some of the examples in your work when you recognized the importance of Children's House Zagreb?
Each of the children living here has its own story. I can take an example of a boy who was taken from his family two years ago, where he was physically and emotionally abused by his step father. The child has a lot of potential, he is very warm in contact, his peers are very important to him. Mother is cooperating with our House, ready to hear us, but she has to gather strength to move away from the partner who doesn't handle her child in a good way. Most of the children in the House are taken from their families, but with us working on getting them and their family ready for their return to the family. In my practice, I have witnessed only a few cases in which children have been permanently taken from their parents. Of course, it is best for a child to live in a family, even if it is a foster family. However, we need to take care about the fact that some children in our House have some serious issues. There were situations when foster families returned those children to us, because they couldn’t handle those issues, and in those kinds of situations, it is best to have the child in a space with rules, schedule, and all-day professional care.
What are the biggest challenges you face in your job? Is there anything to ease those challenges?
I would say the hardest thing is bureaucracy and processes that are too slow. Sometimes, it is very urgent to provide certain type of care to a child, but the system is so slow and precious time passes, and that isn't good for the child nor for the group he/she lives with. Sometimes, we get a child for whom we are not best equipped to help, so we try to transport this child elsewhere. Often, because waiting period is too long, this child feels unaccepted and problematic, and often the group itself suffers the consequences.
What is „filling your batteries“ during your everyday work?
The little things. When a child tells me he/she understands why I told him/her to do something, or why I forbid something, that he/she understands I care and want to help. One of our girls, that isn't in our House anymore, now asked me to follow her to Prom night, to do the first dance with her. It is simply when you know you are in someone’s life and they are in yours. I always knew I wasn't going to work in the office filled with papers, my dad also worked with children in an institution and I grew up with those stories. It is simply who I am, and I believe it shaped me as a person.