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Who are the Family Outreach Workers and what do they do? Come and join us in changing the world for the better!

by , Posted on 14th May 2014

Who are the Family Outreach Workers and what do they do? What is the purpose of the project “supporting families at risk” which UNICEF and the Government of Serbia have been implementing together with Novak Djokovic Foundation? Why have we invested $ 750,000 in this project and what are our goals?

This week Novak Djokovic and the UNICEF Representative in Serbia, Michel Saint-Lot visited the Centre for the Protection of Infants, Children and Youth in Zvecanska Street in Belgrade, where they met with families who are beneficiaries of the Family Outreach Worker service.

Both families arrived to the Center before the scheduled time, excited for being able to meet and talk to Novak Djokovic in person. Everybody was smiling, hugging and asking questions. One of the children who came there with an injured arm even got Novak’s autograph on the bandage.

Out of concern not to be perceived by their community in a negative way, some family members hesitated whether or not to pose for the picture. However, when Novak and Jelena entered, welcoming them with smiles and hugs, they were immediately reassured.

Novak Djokovic poseta Zvecanskoj

Novak Djokovic i Jelena Ristic in the Centre for the Protection of Infants, Children and Youth in Zvecanska Street in Belgrade.

As it is usually with Novak, the conversation with the families went smoothly and naturally. He carefully and patiently listened to everything the parents and kids had to say. They talked about their school, success, positive changes they experienced in family relationships, and how much “Family Outreach Worker” service actually meant to them.

So, what is the “Family Outreach Worker” project? This pilot service is currently being carried out in four homes for abandoned children in four Serbian cities: Belgrade, Novi Sad, Nis and Kragujevac. These institutions provide residential accommodation for children, but also services within the family that each family member can rely on. Centers for Social Work have important role in the whole system, since they are responsible for introducing the families with “Family Outreach Worker” service – they can assess which families the most need help. The service is available for all the families at risk, and for those facing a wide range of problems. There can be challenges of single-parent families, challenges caused by certain forms of disabilities, mental health problems or extreme poverty, leaving families in a hopeless situation. In most cases these families are at risk of placing children in institutions. The main objective of Family Outreach Worker project is to prevent the separation of children from their biological families, strengthen these families and help them cope with crisis. At the same time, the aim is to provide their children with an adequate care, in a safe and stimulating environment.

[tweet_quote]Family Outreach Worker is a friend, counselor and representative of the family.[/tweet_quote] Family Outreach Worker activities include visiting the family and getting to know its members better in order to be able to understand the problems they are facing with. For example, the worker collects the data about the family, regarding employment of the parents or whether the children are enrolled in a school or a kindergarden. He also informs the family about their rights in the field of social protection and health care. Then, they make a mutual plan – what has to be done in order to improve the quality of life for the family. To achieve this, everybody needs to collaborate: children as well as their parents. Family friends and acquaintances, schools and the community are also included. In this way they bond to become a powerful team for creating a better future for themselves.

Poseta Zvecanskoj

Unicef Representative in Serbia, Michel Saint-Lot,
Novak Djokovic i Jelena Ristic the Centre for the Protection of Infants, Children and Youth in Zvecanska Street in Belgrade.

At the meeting in Zvecanska each family kept repeating how Family Outreach Workers became their family members. On the other hand, Outreach Workers said that the situation in the families they are responsible for is much better now than it was at the beginning of the project. They are available 24/7 for all the family needs, whether it is a conversation, visit, assistance, support etc. They are practicing new skills with the family, teaching them how to manage and resolve verbal arguments , not to flee from home, to love and respect each other, etc. In the process, the parents are helped to find jobs, to start working so that they can take care of their children as a result of that can attend school carefree.

“I feel this service is the right for us as we finally started to celebrate birthdays. We are a real family now”, said one of the parents at the meeting.

120 families and nearly 300 children have been included in the program so far. The program will last for two more years and the goal is to reach 400 families and over 1,000 children. It’s important to inform that each family has to enter the program on a voluntary basis. After the strengthening phase, which lasts approximately 6 months , the family is free to leave the program, if they want to. However, Family Outreach Worker service does not end there. They continue to be available for the family members, especially for children: to teach them to cook or to write, to help them manage their anger or even to just provide the family with the necessary appliances such as washing machine or a heater.

So let this blog post be an invitation to all the people of good will to join the Family Outreach Workers project. It is as simple as that.

For example, since many families still celebrate birthdays without a birthday cake, you can offer to make cakes for these kids. You can even collect and send us some of the clothes you no longer wear to keep the family warm during cold months. Anyone who is a house painter or has such experience can help these families paint their homes. Your assistance will be very much appreciated.

This is also an open call for all sports clubs and cultural societies to help with the involvement of these children in the extra-curricular activities. Whatever comes to your mind that would help these families transition better into the society and start a new family life is welcomed.

Note that the Family Outreach Workers project is being implemented in Belgrade, Kragujevac, Novi Sad and Nis and if you would like to reach out and join this initiative, all you should do is contact us at: and we will connect you with the right people.

We are waiting for you! Come and join us in changing the world for the better!

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