20 February 2024

Inauguration of the 2nd Pediatric Hospital-based Unit for the Management in Greece

In the presence of the President of the Republic, Katerina Sakellaropoulou, the inauguration of the “ELIZA” Child Safety Care Unit at the 3rd Pediatric Clinic of the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, at the Attikon University General Hospital, took place on Monday, November 22, 2021.

The unit was established at the initiative of the Eliza Society and is the second hospital facility in Greece for the examination and interdisciplinary treatment of infants and children with suspected abuse/neglect.

Specifically, the functions of the Unit include:

  • Examination and monitoring of infants and children suspected of abuse/neglect
  • Coordination of interdisciplinary care, involving all professional teams tasked with managing abuse cases, such as doctors, nurses, social workers, mental health professionals, forensic experts, police officers, etc.
  • Development of research/educational programs for primary and secondary prevention of abuse
  • Data collection for the design and implementation of scientifically based prevention and management strategies for child abuse/neglect cases.

The protection of children at risk of abuse and neglect is highlighted as a more urgent need than ever, as according to the World Health Organization:

  • 1,000,000 children aged 2 to 17 have been victims of some form of violence, physical/sexual/psychological, or neglect in just the past year.
  • 300 million children aged 2 to 4 often experience physical abuse and/or punishment, or psychological abuse from their immediate environment (parents and caregivers).
  • 1 in 4 adults has experienced physical abuse as a child.
  • Prevention can act catalytically and prevent violent behaviors and mistreatment of infants and children.

Eliza warmly thanks PRODEA Investments for their generosity and crucial contribution to the creation of the Unit, as well as the MATILDA Foundation and Henkel Beauty Care Greece for their significant support for the daily operation and staffing of the Unit.

Here is the greeting from Mrs. Sakellaropoulou:

“Exactly twenty-six years ago today, six-year-old Eliza, a child of immigrants living in Brooklyn, New York, was brutally abused to death by her own mother. She was rightfully characterized by the authorities as the worst case of child abuse they had ever seen. Her story still shocks with its brutality and the bureaucratic manner in which it was handled by the state welfare services and justice system.

Unfortunately, there are other Elizas around us. Defenseless infants and children experiencing a deeply painful reality without any help. None of them should ever reach this point, enduring this dark side of life alone. The duty of the State towards all these vulnerable souls is imperative, self-evident. It cannot be exhausted in mere rhetoric.

In this struggle, fortunately, there are fellow citizens with social sensitivities and a willingness to contribute, prominent members of the pediatric community and specialists, who choose not to remain indifferent. Like Mrs. Marina Karella, who, honoring the memory of the unjustly lost little New Yorker, founded the Association bearing her name in 2008, filling a significant gap in our country regarding the detection and investigation of similar cases. That same year, the Organization started, in collaboration with the “SOS Children’s Villages,” the operation of the first therapy and rehabilitation hostel for neglected and abused children, followed by the creation of the 1st Care Unit at the Panagioti and Aglaia Kyriakou Children’s Hospital.

Today, on this symbolic day, we inaugurate the 2nd Unit at the Attikon Hospital. It operates under the direction and guidance of the 3rd University Pediatric Clinic and aims at interdisciplinary care for infants and children with suspected abuse or neglect, as well as the development of research and educational programs that will substantially contribute to the prevention of the grim phenomenon of child abuse.

However, for the so righteous message of the “Zero Tolerance for Child Abuse” campaign to be put into action, the sensitization of public opinion is absolutely necessary. As long as we are accustomed to guilty silence and scattered whispers that rarely penetrate the four walls, as long as we pretend that the fear and insecurity of vulnerable families do not exist, as long as we do not report abuse cases to the competent authorities, no agency or action alone will be able to strike at the root of the evil.

Warm congratulations are due to all those working at “Eliza” for this sacred purpose, to the Board of Directors and its President, to those who inspire us in this direction with the generosity of their hearts. To the Clinic Director, Professor Vana Papaevangelou, who undertook the supervision of this new and challenging interdisciplinary project, to the other members of the Unit, to all those who actively devote all their strength to the children. Their example fills us with optimism, gives us strength, and reminds us how right Anne Frank was when she said that no one “has ever become poor by giving.”

The Founder and President of the Board of Directors of Eliza, Marina Karella, mentioned in her gratitude speech that “The Hospital Care Unit for Child Safety ‘ELIZA’ that we are inaugurating today represents for us another important step in the prevention and early intervention of child abuse, which exists in our country, as everywhere else, and unfortunately shows an increasing trend globally. However, today, we are able to stand against it and prevent it before it harms the lives of our children.”

Professor of Pediatric Infectious Diseases and Head of the Unit, Dr. Vana Papaevangelou, noted that “The 3rd Pediatric Clinic of the University of Athens is particularly proud of the establishment of the Care Unit for Child Safety at Attikon Hospital, in collaboration with the Eliza Association. The new space created to assess children at risk of abuse and neglect is child- and parent-friendly and offers privacy. Sensitization efforts among pediatricians and nursing staff have led, in just a few months, to a significant increase in the number of evaluated children. The next goal of our unit is to implement a primary prevention program for abuse by timely identifying children at risk.”

Theresa Messari, General Manager of Economics & Operations at PRODEA Investments, stated that “PRODEA investments joined forces with the Eliza Association and helped materialize the new specialized unit at Attikon Hospital. This is an important structure that will provide critical services to children who unfortunately have such a need. That is why PRODEA immediately became aware and supported this initiative. However, our need and goal are greater. By supporting efforts of greater social awareness for the protection of children, we aim to reach a point where such structures are no longer needed. It is our responsibility towards every child in need.”

The Matilda Foundation, on the occasion of the inauguration, noted: “With great pleasure, the Matilda Foundation for the Care of Little Heroes supported the Care Unit for Child Safety – ‘ELIZA’! This specific collaboration involves covering the cost of employing a University Scholar for one year to contribute to assessments of potential child abuse cases, an initiative that aligns with Matilda’s main statutory purpose of protecting children from all forms of abuse, neglect, and exploitation, as well as promoting and defending their fundamental and inalienable rights.”

Elias Skartados, Trade Marketing Manager of Henkel Beauty Care Greece, stated that “Corporate social responsibility is at the core of our values ​​at Henkel Hellas. Our goal is to understand the needs of society and find ways to respond to them, remaining committed to our commitment to contribute to social progress. It is an honor for us to support the Non-Profit Association Eliza for the second consecutive year in achieving such an important work, and it is our responsibility not only to offer but also to inform and raise awareness among our consumers about this social contribution, because together we can make the world a better place for children.”