The prevention of domestic violence in Sosnowiec, Poland

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By Adrian Drdzeń – Chairman of the interdisciplinary prevention team in Sosnowiec

Sosnowiec, Poland, June 2014 – With its project “Land of the Fireflies”, the city of Sosnowiec was nominated as representative of Poland for the 2013 European Crime Prevention Award. The project illustrates the efforts undertaken by the city to tackle domestic violence, with a special focus on child protection.

Sosnowiec   Google Maps

In Sosnowiec, the prevention of domestic violence is under the responsibility of the social policy department of the city, which coordinates all municipal activities in this field in coordination with a local partnership involving the various specialised departments of the municipality (education, health care, youth), the police and civil society organisations.

Awareness about domestic violence is relatively recent in Poland. It really emerged in the early 1990s, with a focus on parent-child abuse, at a time when parental corporal punishment  was still quite widespread and accepted* (it was banned in 2010).

In this field, the city of Sosnowiec offers preventive, intervention and supportive actions. It has set up an information and help service for the general public, parenting workshops for parents and a programme specifically geared towards children, called “The Land of the Fireflies”.

The blue card procedure: a multi-agency approach to prevent domestic violence

Sosnowiec is also involved in the “blue card procedure”, a multi-agency approach aimed at reducing and preventing domestic violence which gathers representatives of the social welfare department, the national police, the education system (teachers, counsellors,…), health care system (doctors, nurses, paramedics), the municipal committees on alcohol abuse, and representatives of civil society organisations. This procedure allows to prevent violence and monitor families at risk, to support victims, and to  work with perpetrators.

The blue card procedure consists of four elements each represented by a card (A, B, C and D), on which each stage is documented. The intervention process is launched with Card A. It is filled out by any of the five public services mentioned above.  At the same time, the victim is given Card B, containing important information for victims of violence, such as where to find institutions providing support in a given area. When a situation of domestic violence is reported, the chairman of the interdisciplinary team sets up within three days a work group to promptly deal with the situation, and meets with both the victim(s) and the abuser.

Card C / D is filled out by the work group, which assesses the situation and develops an individual help plan for the victim and witnesses of violence, for instance the children (Card C), as well as a plan of actions against the perpetrator (Card D). The work group is composed of representatives of services and specialists working with families, usually a social worker, a police community support officer, a school counsellor (if there are schoolchildren in the family), as well as psychologists or therapists working with people affected by violence or using violence, a healthcare worker, a court officer, a family assistant, and other specialists if required.

Members of the work group meet with both the victim and the abuser. In cooperation with the family, they plan and implement interventions aimed at supporting the victim, and then monitor these actions. The main objective of this procedure is to provide support to victims of domestic violence and to restore normal relations in families affected by violence. The basic aim of the interventions is to ensure the protection and safety of victims and to detain the perpetrators if necessary. Corrective and educative actions are also taken against perpetrators, aimed at changing their behaviour and attitude in order to prevent future acts of violence.

The Chamber of Fireflies: providing information, support and protection

The Chamber of Fireflies is a project financed by the city of Sosnowiec aimed at providing abused and neglected children with psychological and legal aid and their parents/caregivers with a place where they can go to in case of emergency to talk and to receive counselling. The main activities included in the project are: emergency intervention support, psychological and legal aid, online counselling, parental guidance infoline, interdisciplinary training. The target groups are children from Sosnowiec who have experienced or witnessed abuse, and their parents/caregivers and professionals (legal guardians, police, social workers, etc.).

For many people, this is the only place where they can find support. The “clients” are mostly people who were not able to find help in local institutions, in particular because these do not offer assistance to abused children. In this sense, this project has filled a gap, in particular for children who had nowhere to go when in need of help from specialists.

Fireflies Parenting Workshops

The parenting workshop project of the city of Sosnowiec, which is supported by the Auchan Foundation, focuses on secondary prevention. It is addressed to parents and caregivers of children aged 0-6, and especially to families who have not yet shown signs of dysfunction. The main aims of the project and the desired results are: enhancement of parental skills in the care and upbringing of very young children, prevention of abuse through active workshops and training sessions, The Firefly Café, and e-mail counselling.

The “Firefly’s Cafe” (Kawiarenka Świetlika) is an attractive way to meet parents in a relaxed atmosphere where they can learn parental skills.  With a cake and a coffee, parents can meet specialists in childcare, support and education. There is no need for prior registration: parents can simple go there with their children.

In the pilot programme (2012), this form of contact was particularly popular among parents, and the Café welcomed more than 30 visitors at each “session”.


The Land of the Fireflies: a programme implemented in 11 kindergartens

LandoffirefliesThe Land of the Fireflies is a prophylaxis programme implemented in 11 kindergartens in Sosnowiec. Its mission is to support the emotional development of children and to improve knowledge and emotional awareness.

Being able to identify and acknowledge emotions by appropriately naming and expressing them in a socially acceptable way is an extremely important part of growing up. A child’s self-esteem, trust in himself and others, his abilities to establish relations with others, his understanding of himself and others all depend on how the child is able to deal with the emotions.

Short presentation of the Land of Fireflies project by Adrian Drdzeń
That project was nominated as representative of Poland
for the 2013 European Crime Prevention Award

The Land of the Fireflies is a programme of actions aimed at children, parents, kindergarten employees and other institutions. One key aspect of the project is the fairytale which guides children through different emotions and situations according to a therapeutic path. As a result, children learn how to find solutions to difficult situations.

The tale of the “Land of Fireflies” is the background and inspiration of the work carried with children. The events and characters depicted in the tale embody and symbolise the inner conflicts that the child may identify with, even unconsciously, and help the child to look for a solution together with the characters of the fairytale.

A fairytale is a natural form of expression that involves imagination, something which is very familiar for a child. It is also a playful way to engage with children. It describes the world in a simple way, allowing the child to understand situations and problems.

It is also safe: the child can identify with problems described metaphorically, and interpret them in his own personal way. The tale does not impose any view on the child. If it describes a situation that the child has not experienced, he will not recognise it. But if it is a situation he can relate to, he will find in the tale experiences and emotions he can identify with and use them to work the problem and find the solution.

Click here to read the full practice sheet about the project.

* Mackowicz, J. and B. Majerek (2013): Combating domestic violence – polish systemic. Pedagogical University of Cracow, Poland