Croatia RTC Case Study
I. Brief history
When talking about first steps and beginnings of our CAP story, we have to start with people.
The abuse and neglect of children was recognized as a major social problem in Croatia in the 1990s, thanks to the work of numerous experts. People from Parents Association Step by Step wanted to introduce a prevention program into the schools.
So, we were fascinated when ICAP’s director at the time, Pat Stanislaski, came to us to present information about the CAP Program. As acknowledged by Ms. Hitrec, the Croatian CAP initiator, the presentation was contagious in a way that only people who really love and believe in what they do can convey – people who are deeply committed to a specific mission. Pat Stanislaski’s mission was clearly to empower children and protect them from abuse.
At the time, we did not have a program of this kind in Croatia, and the conclusion quickly emerged: yes, we need exactly that kind of program!
At the Association, we wanted to introduce the CAP program – a developed and tested program – into elementary schools. We estimated that we had the basic conditions for this: high motivation, a significant network of associates in elementary schools, and quality cooperation with numerous educational and health institutions and non-governmental organizations. By introducing CAP, we could save both the time and money needed to develop and test a new prevention program.
Therefore, in 1999 we designed the project “Prevention of Child Abuse Through the School System and the Local Community – Implementation of the CAP Program” with the aim of educating an initial group of CAP facilitators who would implement the CAP program in a sample of elementary schools from different parts of Croatia. The project was supported by the Institute for the Advancement of Education and funded by the Open Society Institute Croatia. Collaboration with ICAP was established, and a 4-day initial training was held by ICAP experts/trainers.
The next phase of the CAP introduction project followed in the first half of 2000. The CAP program was offered in 13 pilot elementary schools from different parts of Croatia. At the same time, the Department of Psychology at the Faculty of Philosophy conducted an evaluation of available resources, implementation of program activities, and program impacts.
The conclusion of the evaluation was that the CAP program had all the requirements to be offered to schools ongoingly as a primary abuse prevention program.
Since then, with the cooperation and support of ICAP, the Association has developed a strong network of CAP teams implementing Elementary, Teen and Special Needs CAP programs curricula.
For more information about the Step By Step Parents Association, see: https://www.udrugaroditeljakpk.hr/english/history
II. Key factors in degree of development and success
The CAP program, one of the oldest and most prestigious programs for the primary prevention of violence against and among children and young people in the world, has been implemented in Croatia since 2000.
CAP is one of the few programs in Croatia that educates pre-school and school-age children on prevention in situations of peer assault and bullying, assault by a stranger, and assault by a known adult.
Performance evaluations for the CAP program show that the program has an impact on self-confidence and knowledge of one’s rights. The CAP program also demonstrates high effectiveness in teaching harassment prevention and defense strategies.
In addition to the power of the program itself, at least four additional factors contribute to CAP’s success in Croatia.
1) From the beginning, we opted for a slightly different approach to the development of the CAP facilitators’ network than was the case in the US and other countries that used it.
In order to internally change the climate in the schools toward greater security and sensitivity to the problems of child abuse and neglect, we wanted the Croatian CAP program to be implemented by primary school teachers and professional associates from the educational systems in which they work. The fact that our CAP facilitators are mainly people working directly with children in schools has been significant for changing the climate in our educational institutions towards a greater focus on children’s rights and safety. This has benefited children, parents, and school staff.
Croatian CAP teams in kindergartens, schools, and education centers generally perform the program as part of the preventive activities of the institution, and so this is included as part of their work responsibilities.
2) Professional meetings have been held to train educators to implement the CAP program in all the major cities of Croatia.
3) To ensure quality, we have regular internal meetings in the Association with the aim of planning, monitoring, and implementing CAP activities. All CAP teams jointly prepare and plan, and they also jointly reflect on the effective implementation of the program.
Teams use a protocol list as a reminder to perform key tasks to a high standard and in a timely manner. And all CAP facilitators, after completing delivery of a CAP program, complete the Protocol and the Evaluation Report, in which they list the activities performed in the delivery of workshops for school staff, parents, and children. Program participants – both adults and children – also evaluate the activities in which they participated.
All results are then submitted to the CAPIS – online database, where they are analyzed. Regular reviews are used to improve effectiveness and ensure excellence.
4) In addition, the CAP program has thrived thanks to a large network of associates, partners, individuals, and institutions. Contributions from national institutions such as the Ministry of Social Policy and the Ministry of Science and Education, as well as from local governments and private donors, support the implementation of CAP programs in all parts of the country.
III. Challenges and barriers faced
Limited financial resources for educating new teams and supporting the network – including supervision of CAP facilitators, professional development, and printing brochures for parents and children – are the only obstacle to greater expansion of the CAP program.
Since 2014 all work on the implementation of new CAP programs – administration, organization, and promotion of the CAP program – has been done by volunteers. Although CAP is part of the curricula and work responsibilities of teachers, pedagogues, psychologists, speech therapists, all administration needed after the implementation of the CAP program (reporting on implementation to the Association, review time with children after workshops, etc.) is a voluntary contribution of CAP facilitators.
The Parent Association “Step by Step” regularly applies to national ministries and to local and regional government groups in order to fund the programs in as many institutions as possible.
IV. Stories of impact
In 20 years of experience, our success has been proven through performance research, as well as through reports of customer satisfaction. In addition to stories and examples from evaluation questionnaires, we often get live comments on the spot.
The joy and happiness of students during and after the workshops is extremely motivating, and often very touching. Older students participating in the TeenCAP program respond especially well to workshops for their age, which they personally show in the workshops on the second and third day, as well as in their evaluation sheets, and in communication with the facilitators during individual Review Time after the workshops.
All of our CAP facilitators are also constantly reporting to us with examples from their workshops. For example,
“At lectures, parents are, almost regularly, unpleasantly surprised by the statistics on the frequency of abuse in our country. This is often the fact that motivates parents the most to talk to their children about violence and how to deal with it.”
“In the first conversation, I tell them how that the law prohibits corporal punishment of a child and inform them what I am obliged to do if I get any knowledge that this is continuing. This is “first information” for many. Adults in lectures regularly are worried and surprised, they often ask for a “return” slide or ask where they can find them themselves. There were those who wanted to talk individually.”
Parents also fill out evaluations. One mother wrote this after a workshop.
“Since I myself was a victim of violence as a child, I can say that I am sorry that at that time there was no project like CAP for me and the other children who grew up with me. At least I would have had someone to confide in. Now [that I have taken the CAP Parent’s workshop], I have a sense that I can give my children useful advice. I’ve been waiting for years for workshops like CAP!”
“I was once approached by a mother who told me her own example where she personally reported the neglect and abuse of a child from the neighborhood, but says, all unsuccessfully. I advised her to continue to do so, whenever she finds out about the abuse, and if she has experience that social welfare center and the police do nothing, she should ask for the name of the person she talked to when announcing and announce that she will call in a few days to ask what they have done, and let them address it in writing, by registered letter with the returnee, and contact the Ombudsman for Children and inform her about everything she has done to protect the child in question.”
“During the workshop, and later in individual conversations, one student stated that she does not like when her father gets into bed. I talked to the girl, a teacher and a social pedagogue at school about the necessary “following” of the student and how to talk to her and her father, given the girl’s complex family situation and the trauma she experienced. In a joint conversation, I suggested that a family member whom the student trusts be invited to the interview first, and that she be sent to a health care institution accompanied by that person.”
- What’s needed now to grow
Even after 20 years of successful implementation of the CAP program in Croatia, we as an RTC continue to strive every year to raise the quality of the program, to increase the skills of our CAP facilitators, and also to improve our coordination.
Every year, we write many proposals for financial support for CAP. We strive to expand to reach as many children and young people as possible with this valuable program.
Our goal for the future of CAP in Croatia is to strengthen the CAP program for children with disabilities.
We also want to develop more violence prevention programs and education regarding the Internet and other digital tools.
Further, it would be great if there was additional education and dissemination of knowledge and competencies acquired in the basic CAP education, in order to further strengthen the facilitators with webinars, educational tools, and informative materials.
Finally, we would like to see further education and empowerment of coordinators and RTCs in general, including additional connections between RTCs in the same region(s).