FICE Serbia's Study Visit to the Netherlands
One of the most important activities for FICE Serbia this year was their study visit to the Netherlands, as an activity that they have been practicing for many years and that their members highly appreciate. During their visit, a group of six professionals, employed in the three key sectors of social protection within the Serbian child and youth care system (i.e., residential care, alternative care and social welfare centers), visited institutions and organizations, dealing with the provision of social protection services in the field of child and family care. They had the opportunity to see and hear about, in direct contact, a variety of services, which allowed professionals from three different countries (Netherlands, Croatia and Serbia) to directly discuss their experiences and current practices. This had been a wonderful chance to obtain knowledge and other approaches.
The project was planned to be realized in 2020, however, the COVID-19 pandemic cancelled all planned FICE Serbia activities for 2020 and 2021, due to the many unknowns related to the situation.
The host of the study visit was FICE Serbia's long-time partner organization from the Netherlands, Kinderperspectief, also member of FICE the Netherlands. The visit itself, as well as the professional exchange were realized in September 2022, from 12th to 16th and the host organization covered all expenses for the Serbian participants, for cost of travel, accommodation, transportation from place to place, etc. Additionally, the colleagues from Croatia joined in, also from the field of child and youth care, and strengthened the dynamics of the entire process of exchange and learning together with the colleagues from the Netherlands, who were their hosts and introduced them to their everyday work and practice.
During their stay in Zwolle, the hosts provided a wide range of opportunities to learn and share experiences. During the visit to the Kinderperspetief organization, the Serbian colleagues were introduced to the work of the organization, its goals, achieved results, as well as current projects. In addition to the above, the hosts introduced the Dutch child protection system and the way in which young people participate in the creation of services. During the visit to the organization, experts who provided direct services to children and young people were present. Through this interactive work, the colleagues were introduced to the practices of mobile teams, as well as the support for children without adequate parental care. In addition to the visit of the hosts, there were visits to two other organizations: the TACTUS organization, where the team was familiarized with their preventive program for adolescents used in educational institutions to prevent addiction, and the TRIAS Organization, which had a program for teenagers (16-18) who leave the social care system. At these organizations, there was the opportunity to speak with both the service providers and the actual users of the service.
In a full-day visit to the Levell Organization (Amsterdam), the colleagues were introduced to the innovative service that was provided as part of the THIUS + "We do what is necessary" program that aimed to keep adolescents with behavioral issues and their birth families together. Teams of two professionals from each nation collaborated on a concrete case study. Their joint conclusion of the group work was that, although cultural and systemic differences exist, in their direct work as professionals/individuals, they remained focused on the interest of their users. Their approach, techniques and way of thinking were similar as well.
The opportunity to learn from and share valuable experiences with colleagues from the Netherlands and Croatia had been an experience that significantly enhanced direct work with children and young people as well as FICE Serbia's professional and personal growth. The study visit participants were strengthened by a newfound enthusiasm and desire to improve on their current practices in order to contribute to the more effective and carefree growing-up of children and young people who needed support. This had been a unique opportunity to share both the accomplishments they were proud of and the challenges they faced in a warm and direct human encounter.
Behind all these planned vocational activities, Kinderperspectief also planned some time for the Serbian group to see and get-to-know the country, where they spent several special days with very special people.
FICE Serbia would like to express their gratitude to Kinderperspectief, their host organization, for their gracious hospitality, superb planning throughout the entire visit, and unselfish willingness to give them the chance to learn highly specific new skills and tools, suited for working with children and young people.
Belgrade, October 2022.
The FICE Serbia study visit team