Crisis Assistance for Children With Klára Laurenčíková
We asked Klára Laurenčíková three questions about the current situation of crisis assistance for children and families in the Czech Republic. She is the chairwoman of the Committee on the Rights of the Child at the Government Council for Human Rights and an advisory member of the Minister of Education and the Minister of Labor and Social Affairs. Throughout her entire life, she has been focused on supporting and protecting endangered and vulnerable children. She has been cooperating with The Civil Society Development Foundation (NROS) for a long time, namely with the role of professionally supporting the Early Intervention for Children program.
Why is it personally important for you to support organizations which offer crisis assistance to children and their families?
The availability of quality crisis assistance services to children who find themselves in difficult life situations in the Czech Republic is insufficient. A large amount of children therefore grow up with severe consequences of their traumatic experiences without the adequate support during early stages of their psychosocial development. The consequence of the absence of timely crisis assistance can lead to increased risks of mental illness, worsened learning abilities at school, substance abuse and the onset of problem behavior.
What are the biggest shortcomings in the way crisis assistance for children works here and what in your opinion is the ideal “safety net”?
The biggest system deficiency is the already mentioned lack of accessibility of timely and quality crisis assistance as well as other necessary follow-up services of therapeutic or pedopsychiatric nature. What is also missing are widely available services to provide safety or a functional system of social housing for families in crisis and need. The system of caring for endangered children has been historically scattered along the lines of various departments. As a result, any complex systemic changes are hard to establish and implement. A child in crisis is therefore unnecessarily in a situation of delayed, often isolated interventions rather than a network of complex support.
I hope that children and their needs would be at the center of attention of us adults. I would like the quality of life for both children and their families to go beyond pre-election promises and proclamations. I would like the interests and needs of children to be taken seriously and for the political establishment to bravely and wisely make the required system changes. I hope for a system which offers functioning preventive and supportive services for everyone who needs someone to lean on in times of weakness and when they are lost.
Oftentimes, a relatively small complication needlessly becomes a serious crisis simply because the problem grew and early assistance was not available. This results in greater “fires” with serious consequences. The Czech Republic then pays significant amounts to put out these fires instead of preventing their occurrence and putting it out right from its onset. This needs to change.
A large number of children unnecessarily grow up under institutional care, a large number of them develop substance addiction, there is a growing number of children with problem behavior, mental health problems and we often witness a transfer of trauma from generation to generation. This is a serious signal pointing out that the system of caring for endangered children in the Czech Republic is not effective. In addition to the accessibility of quality preventive and intervention services, we need build a system for detecting cases of children in danger and establish processes in such a way that endangered children (in crisis) effectively receive timely assistance.
Does the cooperation with The Civil Society Development Foundation add anything to your rich professional experience? Do you also cooperate with other NGOs?
The Civil Society Development Foundation provides important support in the fight to give a voice to various endangered groups and to protect their interests and needs on a system-wide level.
I am a strong believer in connecting the powers of all parties which are aiming for the same goals and have the same agenda. It is important to build synergies in our struggle, to share our experiences and to help and support each other. The Committee on the Rights of the Child at the Government Council for Human Rights is such a platform of cooperation where I have the honor of participating. With the help of the Czech Society for Inclusive Education and the Good Start initiative (Dobrý start), I have an unique opportunity in cooperating with individuals and organizations that focus on the topic of fair education and prevention of institutional special education.
I would like to express many thanks to the Foundation as well as other active parties for the opportunity to be pulling the same rope in our struggle for better life conditions for all children without any distinction.
… she studied Special Education at the Faculty of Education of the Charles University. She was a co-author of a research project supported by the Grant Agency of Charles University focused on the topic of educator assistance. She also worked at the Ministry of Education of Youth and Physical Education as a director of the Department for Equal Opportunity and Education, then subsequently as a Deputy to the Minister of Education. As part of her tasks, she was in charge of inclusive education, institutional education and prevention of problem behavior in schools. She also lead the Department of Social and Legal Protection of Children at the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs. She is the co-founder of the Czech Society for Inclusive Education – a platform that is focused on the topic of inclusive education and which sources experts not only from universities, NGOs, schools and various educational facilities. She is the chairwoman of the Committee on the Rights of the Child at the Government Council for Human Rights and an advisory member of the Minister of Education and the Minister of Labor and Social Affairs. She has spent her entire professional career, along with her husband Martin Šimáček, focusing on the topic of inclusive education and protecting endangered children. She has taken part in various international journeys focused on mapping various education and social systems.