The UNICEF project, which is already implemented in more than 74 places and cities across Slovenia, and includes 600 UNICEF Safe Points (within them more than 1,300 volunteers), was joined in September 2017 by the municipality of Cerknica. With the financial and moral support of the Municipality of Cerknica, the local coordination was taken over by Julija Perko from the Multigenerational Family Center. In cooperation with the police, we anticipated possible locations of UNICEF Safe Points, afterwards the coordinator presented the project to potential volunteers.
UNICEF Safe Points are various public spaces, such as libraries, insurance companies, pharmacies, florists, youth centers, shops, car repair shops and the like, where people offer immediate protection to children in need of help or advice in distress. The volunteers attend a special training organized for them by UNICEF Slovenia where they learn how to help children in need. According to experience from other places, the most common reasons for children to turn to for help are peer violence,
school problems, waiting for transport home and various other personal and social hardships.
The UNICEF Safe Points are marked with UNICEF stickers and are available to children in Begunje, Grahovo, Unec, Rakek and of course in Cerknica. It is important that all children are familiar with UNICEF Safe Points in their environment, that’s why we distributed schedules with all UNICEF Safe
Points marked on them at the beginning of the new school year. The schedule also contains information about the purpose of the UNICEF Safe Points and other important contacts of the services to which children can turn in distress. Posters and flyers are available in all public spaces. We
want our volunteers to have as few visitors as possible!
What are the UNICEF Safe Points?
- Specially marked spaces (bookstore, library, post office, confectionery, shop, youth center…) – NO STIGMATIZATION
- In SP, there must be friendly adults whom the child in emotional distress or crisis can trust
- The target group is school youth
- The child must know about all SP in the place or city (so that in case of danger he can take refuge in the nearest) – IMPORTANT CONTINUOUS INFORMATION AND PROMOTION
- This project is already being implemented in 74 places and cities
- There are 600 UNICEF Safe Points in Slovenia
- More than 1,200 volunteers are involved in the project
The goals of the UNICEF Safe Points?
- Immediate and appropriate assistance to a child / adolescent in need. “First aid for children in need”
- Soothing an emotionally confused and frightened child
- Help to solve the problem. “Shortcut to professional help”
- If necessary, continue to address the child’s distress, crisis, problems even outside the SP (SP also connects with other local actors). “UNICEF Safe Points as informal antennas”
- Creating an atmosphere of greater security – psychological support. “Security in stock”
Circumstances / situations that are dangerous / threatening for children?
- Peer-to-peer “power measurement”
- Threats, blackmail of stronger peers (“gangs”)
- Violent behavior of adults towards children
- Child abuse (by adults)
- Involvement of children in a crime or misdemeanor
- Unknown environment (if lost)
- Other forms of threat / danger to the child, typical for larger urban centers
The most common reasons for visiting UNICEF Safe Points
- Peer violence
- School problems – help with homework, learning assistance
- “Waiting room” for transport home
- Need of conversation, praise and a warm word
- Social distress
- Problems in the family (home environment)
- Atypical reasons: lost puppy, birthday party, love problems
Short instructions for volunteers at UNICEF Safe Points
- We are naturally friendly with the child
- We react calmly at the child’s arrival
- In a safe space, we encourage the child to talk about his problem (why he took refuge in SP)
- We take the child (and his distress) very seriously
- We don’t moralize (we don’t judge what’s right or wrong)
- We believe the child (what he says)
- We are ready to discuss / talk about topics that usually embarrass people
- We take time for the child, listen to him and do not interrupt his narration
- We make the child feel that he / she can talk to us about all his / her problems
- We assure the child that what his story is very important to us
- We relieve his sense of guilt about the event or the situation
- Violence is not acceptable, whoever is violent acts wrongly, there is no excuse for violence
- We explain to the child that it is right for him to accept our help
- We encourage him to talk to adults who are important to him and whom he can trust
- We express our readiness to look for / find suitable solutions together
- If we know someone who would be able to help him, we suggest that the child contacts them, perhaps over the phone
- We provide the child with other important telephone numbers
- We explain to the child further actions we will take in his case
- If a child needs help we do not drive him in our car
- We tell the child in distress that we are always available to him and he can come whenever he wants (even when he is not in need)
Depending on the type of problem, the responsible in the local environment are:
- For injuries – rescuers
- For crimes – police
- For school problems – school management
- For abuse, family problems – CSW (Center for Social Work), Crisis Center
- For learning assistance – youth center
What if you can’t help the child to solve the problem?
- You contact the local coordinator for the SP
- You call a professional service in the local environment: CSW, Police, Crisis Center for Youth
Where to install the child in distress?
If the child is afraid to go e.g. home, you can refer him to a working Youth Crisis Center that operates 24 hours a day. The child can stay there for 3 weeks.
Tasks of the crisis center:
- Providing first aid and personal assistance to young people in need who take refuge in the center
- Admission and care for children and adolescents until their problems are resolved (not more than three weeks, with possibility of extension)
- Providing shelter to young people in need of rapid and temporary removal from the family
- Preparation of measures for the return of the minor to his family
- Cooperation with the competent centers for social work, state bodies and organizations responsible for the treatment of minors
TOM phone (telephone for children and adolescents)
You can also direct the child to TOM phone number 116 111, where trained volunteers will help him get professional help.