We started a new round of city labs under the title Inclusive Zagreb. One of the sessions was dedicated to youth at risk where we explored sources of social exclusion that youth at risk are facing. This included lack of formal and informal support, digital, legal, economic and social factors. We specifically discussed position of youth in institutional care, young Roma, youth with mental health problems, young parents. In city labs we discussed problems, and then based on these discussions, 4 community projects were implemented in December 2022 and January 2023

Virtual Place

Hybrid Pop-Up CityLab: Platform & Location Department for Social Work at the Faculty of Law, Nazorova 51, Zagreb


Start: 08.11.2022
End: 08.11.2022


City of Zagreb

12.00-12.15 Introduction 12.15-13.15 moderated group discussions in separate four groups: youth in institutional care, young Roma, youth with mental health problems, young parents 13.15.-14.00 conclusions from sessions, overall conclusion.

December 2022 and January 2023. Implementation of community projects

Total participants: 84 Total students: 38 Total Staff members: 10 Total representatives of societal stakeholder: 16 city representatives, 18 professionals, 2 not specified.

YOUTH IN INSTITUTIONAL CARE. Children, to the greatest extent, receive social support from parents, students, teachers and friends, while children from alternative forms of care (foster care, educational institutions and children's homes) experience some specifics regarding social support resources. In addition to the fact that children in alternative care do not have equal access to sources of social support, there is a greater emphasis on professional workers from various fields who take care of their upbringing and psychosocial development and meeting basic life needs, especially for young people from alternative care who are in institutionalized accommodation. It is important to provide young people from the system of alternative care with stable and uniform, i.e. formal social support that will be available to everyone equally, regardless of the form of care they receive. Showing love, understanding, compassion, care and willingness to listen leads the child to better adjustment, reduced stress and better health. This means that adequate provision of social support from various sources develops children who can more easily realize their full potential, and this is particularly important for children and young people from the system of alternative care, who do not have the same life opportunities as children who come from complete and functional families. According to the National Recommendations for the exit of young people from the system of alternative care (2017), young people from the system of alternative care are not sufficiently familiar with their rights, and there is a particularly visible disparity between young people placed in foster families and young people from institutional care. Also, non-participation of young people from alternative care in the decision-making process related to situations related to them and their rights was recognized as an important problem. The Social Welfare Act stipulates that young people should receive support from the social welfare system after leaving such alternative care, but it is not strictly prescribed what kind of support and how often and until when young people should receive this type of support. One of the most prominent sources of formal social support for young people from alternative care are teachers and other school professionals who should provide support to young people from alternative care, because the mentioned group is often exposed to stigmatization, peer violence and is at increased risk of developing depressive and anxiety disorders. In addition to teachers as relevant sources of formal social support, educators are also being imposed, whose frequent change caused by dismissals, changes of jobs or shift work, leads to inconsistent care for children in institutions.

IMPLEMENTED COMMUNITY PROJECT: established collaboration between Home for children without parental care and Legal Clinic for providing legal support.

Youth members of Roma community: According to data from the latest population census (DZS, 2021), there are 17,980 people of Roma nationality living in the Republic of Croatia. Marginalization of people of Roma nationality can be studied through different factors, and this project specifically focuses on educational and digital factors that contribute to the exclusion of a vulnerable group of young people at risk with a focus on young members of the Roma nationality. Education contributes to a better future, determines the occupation a person will pursue, his economic situation and his reputation in society, and it is also the biggest problem that appears in the Roma community (Jakić, 2011). The importance is shown by the Government's national strategies for the inclusion of Roma, which highlight education as a priority. It starts with kindergarten and preschool education, but research has shown, measured on a sample of 347 Roma men and women of preschool age, that 68.9% of them do not attend kindergarten (Kunac, Klasić and Lalić, 2018). The situation is improving in elementary schools whose attendance is legally regulated, (Kunac, Klasnić, & Lalić, 2018) and 95% of Roma children aged 7 to 14 attend elementary school, after which there is a further decline. Only 31 % of Roma between the ages of 15 and 18 attend secondary school, and an even smaller number attend higher education (Kunac, Klasnić, & Lalić, 2018). Poor school performance, lack of teaching and documents in the mother tongue, lack of support in the family and environment, getting married are mentioned as the main causes, but some cite financial reasons (Kunac, Klasnić, & Lalić, 2018). Observing the appearance of "Roma settlements" in some, a lack of hygienic conditions, sewage, city water, electricity/internet, etc. is visible, which indicates a lack of adequate space for learning and the necessary resources. This is confirmed by Lapat (2017) with research (N= 57) which indicates that the poor economic status and financial situation prevent the majority of Roma from following the progress of technology. Such a problem then also affects their children, who cannot be fully involved in their education if they do not have the conditions for work, such as the Internet (Lapat, 2017), which is an unimaginable situation in the age of online classes. Although efforts are being made to take certain measures and integrate people of Roma nationality into society, in the educational system there is a social distance towards young Roma from the students, parents and teachers themselves (Horvat, 2020), which additionally affects their exclusion, lack of motivation and desire for a change. The above confirms that there are influences within the community itself as well as outside that contribute to the social exclusion of the Roma population, especially young people. When we take into account the city district itself such as Peščenica-Žitnjak, which abounds with several educational institutions, non-formal education programs, kindergartens, civil society associations operating in that area, we ask ourselves how there can be such a big problem of educational exclusion ? The community does not show sufficient interest. In addition, the most common reason for young Roma women to drop out of the system is underage pregnancy, marriage and starting a family. But the maladjustment that occurs on the part of schools is an even bigger factor that contributes to exclusion. Although there are extended stays and instructions for Roma children in schools in the area of Kozari Bok and Žitnjak, they are implemented by a civil society association (Ambidekster Club), not by institutions. It is necessary to institutionalize the provision of assistance and provide better and easier access to services for young Roma, but also for the entire Roma population. IMPLEMENTED COMMUNITY PROJECT: Sensitizing students of pedagogy for future work with Roma pupils.

YOUTH WITH MENTAL HEALTH ISSUES: The problem that this project is aimed at is the low level of knowledge about mental health problems (anxiety and depression) and about the possibilities of protection. World Health Organization defines mental health as a state of well-being thanks to which an individual is able to develop their own capacities, cope with stressful situations, work productively and contribute to the community (World Health Organization, 2022). Furthermore, the Croatian Institute of Public Health (2017) clarifies that the concept of mental health should include, on the one hand, positive mental health (which includes factors such as an individual's awareness of his own rights, self-esteem, a good feeling about himself, awareness about others, about one's own and other people's feelings) and mental health disorders which, among other things, can include anxiety and depression as those that are frequent and psychoses as a more severe form of disorder and personality disorders. In order to be able to focus on anxiety and depression, it is necessary to learn at least basic information about the mentioned disorders. Crnković (2017) defines anxiety as a pathological condition characterized by a feeling of fear, where the reason for the fear is unknown. Ledić et al. (2019) describe depression as a state of low mood and reluctance towards usual activities. The dynamics of this problem are very complex. Mental health is an increasingly common topic in the media and in everyday discussions, but again, there is a strong sense of taboo associated with it, so there is a very slow improvement at the practical level of action. That the topic of mental health is being promoted is also shown by the fact that a certain number of young people responded to the workshop held as part of this project. However, it was found that their knowledge about possible sources of help is relatively poor. Lesjak (2021) confirms that mental health problems, and depression in particular, are something that is very common nowadays, calling depression the "plague of this century". Although it is desirable that mental health problems become a topic that societies around the world will increasingly deal with, certainly when introducing such issues into everyday topics, one should be careful of the notion of romanticizing the disorder. Ivanović (2020) points out that when romanticizing a sick individual, he is seen as unique precisely because he suffers from a disorder. His suffering is poeticized, while the very symptoms of the disorder are misrepresented. Kos (2016, according to Ledić et al., 2019) states that general practitioners do not recognize even 70% of people suffering from depression speaks of the low level of knowledge about mental health problems. Furthermore, Ostojić and Jendričko (2023), in addition to the frequent unrecognition of depression, note that it is very often, as a result, untreated, that is, inadequately treated. Furthermore, the authors point out that only 25% of people suffering from mood disorders (including depression) seek psychiatric help. Reflecting on the aforementioned facts, there was a need to launch a project that would deal with the mental health of young people, specifically anxiety and depression, with the aim of increasing the level of knowledge about the mentioned disorders and the possibilities of protection. Finally, in the area of Trnje, as a local community within which this project is implemented, there is a large number of educational and health institutions, some of which also offer counseling services and psychological assistance to young people and the rest of the population. When it comes to the origin of this problem, several important factors can be highlighted. First of all, Goffman (1963, according to the Zagreb Psychological Society, 2019) notes that mental health difficulties were considered unacceptable individual characteristics on the basis of which a person can be stigmatized. HZJZ (2017) also notes that, in addition to suffering and reduced quality of life, patients with mental disorders are also accompanied by stigmatization. Stigmatization is certainly something that deters people suffering from mental health disorders or people who are at risk from expressing an interest in mental health topics, as well as from seeking professional help if they feel the need for it. As part of this, the Center for Mental Health (2017) explains that young people, in order to encourage them to seek professional help, should have the feeling that they are addressing an informal and not a strictly clinical institution, and that it would be of great help if the interviews could be come without notice. Furthermore, in order for young people to expand their knowledge about mental health problems and protection options, it is important to take into account the available resources - both human and professional, as well as financial. Young people, as the population targeted by this project, should be offered as many free educational contents as possible on the topic of mental health, especially anxiety and depression, and as many free help options as possible.

IMPLEMENTED COMMUNITY PROJECT: Online workshop for students about mental health

YOUNG PARENTS: In today's society young people decides to become parents later and later. There are many factors that contributed to this way of thinking, such as longer schooling, thus later economic independence from parents, putting career first, getting married later and the like. Today young parenthood is a risk because it is most often unplanned. The younger the parents, the greater the possibility that young parents will face more difficulties in life. The Republic of Croatia stands out as one of the member states of the European Union with a higher rate of underage pregnancies. Accordingly, it is above the EU average (which was then 10.7%) (World Bank, 2015; according to Dobrotić, Pećnik and Baran, 2015). Although the data show a trend of decreasing the number of births at an early age, it is still necessary to work on its prevention, since early parenthood involves many risks. Underage parenting in the Republic of Croatia has not reached the number that we can talk about as a social problem, but the problem manifests itself significantly at the personal and family level. So, in modern society, there are other reasons for the emergence of young parenthood. Certainly, there are those who choose the parental role at a young age, but in today's context we can observe this problem from the perspective of poverty and unplanned parenthood. Prevention should certainly be in focus here in order to be able to control the direction of this problem - through sex education in the family and the school system so that young people can make the right decisions regarding their own sexuality in time. In addition to many mothers being left without the support of their families, they were also left without the support of their partners. The gender dimension is neglected, the entire support system, which is marginal anyway, revolves around mothers. The father is left out in this situation and there should be programs that will be directed at fathers as well. In many situations, adolescent fathers do not live with their children due to poverty, and in the worst situations they do not even want to acknowledge their children and do not see them at all (Klarin, 2006, according to Biloš, 2021). The mother is left to her own and she certainly lacks the help of the other parent, including financial help. Experts from practice who are in direct contact with young parents between the ages of 15 and 21 realize that there is no special legislative framework only for parents of this age group, but rights must be sought in many laws. Young parents do not know where to look to see what rights they have; they do not know which legal regulations can be applied in their situation. The rights of young parents can be found in the Family Act, the Social Welfare Act, Regulations in the field of health care and health insurance, the Child Allowance Act, and many others. Since there are a lot of laws and regulations that are difficult for young parents to navigate, we believe that they should be additionally informed in one place about all the rights they have and how to exercise them. Since they are not sufficiently informed about their rights, they are not even able to fully consume them, and it is very important that this vulnerable group receives the help and support that the state offers them. The legislative framework is not harmonized with each other, and it is easy to lose a right due to inconsistencies between the regulations - for example, when a minor mother needs to submit an application for acquiring business capacity and an application for maternity support, there is a deadline of 120 days from the birth of the child to submit the application to the Croatian Institute for Health Insurance otherwise, the right to receive maternity support is lost, and it is often the case that the mother fails to collect the necessary documentation within the specified period. Legal advice center "Mama je mama" also states that the largest number of inquiries on the advice line come from underage pregnant women seeking information on possible benefits, i.e. parental support (Bojić and Bežovan, 2011). From the above examples, we see that young people also lack information on where and how to obtain financial support and assistance. We have seen that this is one of the greatest needs of young parents, since due to other vulnerabilities, such as dropping out of the education system, they are often in a situation of insufficient economic stability, so it is extremely important for them to know what support they can achieve. Young parenthood is most often associated with poverty, and a child in the family is an additional financial expense. The challenges that young parents face are one after the other - poverty, dropping out of the education system or dropping out of school, dropping out of the labor market. There may be broken family relationships, abandonment by the partner, difficulties in adapting and accepting one's new role in life. It affects both the child's mother and father, as well as their families. Many young people who find themselves in a situation of underage pregnancy state that they entered into conflicts with their parents, that their parents did not support the decision to reveal the pregnancy. In addition to many mothers being left without the support of their families, they were also left without the support of their partners. The gender dimension is neglected, the entire support system, which is marginal anyway, revolves around mothers. The father is left out in this situation and there should be programs that will be directed at fathers as well. In many situations, adolescent fathers do not live with their children due to poverty, and in the worst situations they do not even want to acknowledge their children and do not see them at all (Klarin, 2006, according to Biloš, 2021). The number of children of young parents is not so large that we can talk about the growth of the birth rate in the Republic of Croatia, but the stigmatization of such parents is more present in society. From the data of the National Bureau of Statistics, we see that in 2021 there were 641 births in the Republic of Croatia between the ages of 15-19, which is 1.76%, and 4312 births between the ages of 20-24, which is 11.86%, and it also includes part of the population that belongs to young parents (HZJZ, 2022). We notice the inconsistency of the legislative framework, there is no legal framework that will deal only with young parents, the existing legislative framework is not flexible and inclusive enough for young parents, it is not well defined enough to recognize their specific needs. Institutions provide insufficient information and there is disconnection and insufficient cooperation of, for example, the health system and the social welfare system.

IMPLEMENTED COMMUNITY PROJECT: Developed and disseminated legal guidebook for young mothers in home ˝Kuća ljubavi˝ run by Caritas in Zagreb.


UNIC CityLabs


Social inclusion

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discussion group



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