20 February 2024

Press Release: Inauguration of the 1st Pediatric Hospital-based Unit for the Management of Child Abuse Cases in Northern Greece

In the presence of Her Excellency the President of the Republic, Katerina Sakellaropoulou, the inauguration of the Child Safety Care Unit of the Pediatric Clinic of the Democritus University of Thrace took place at the University General Hospital of Alexandroupolis on Wednesday, November 8, 2023.

The Unit was established on the initiative of Eliza Society against Child Abuse. It constitutes the first hospital space for the examination and interdisciplinary treatment of infants and children with suspicion of abuse/neglect in Northern Greece. Specifically, the functions of the Unit include:

  • Examination and monitoring of infants and children with suspicion of abuse/neglect.
  • Coordination of interdisciplinary care, involving all professional teams responsible for 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 President of the Eliza Society is Marina Karela.

The President of the Republic, Katerina Sakellaropoulou, inside the new Unit with Professor of Pediatrics – Pediatric Hematology/Oncology at the Democritus University of Thrace, Director of the Pediatric Clinic, and Head of the Unit, Elpidoforos Mantadakis.

Professor of Pediatrics – Pediatric Hematology/Oncology at the Democritus University of Thrace, Director of the Pediatric Clinic, and Head of the Unit, Elpidoforo Mantadakis, and the President of the Eliza Society, Marina Karela.

Protecting children at risk of abuse and neglect is more urgent than ever, as:

  • In the European Union, it is estimated that 18 million children have experienced sexual abuse before reaching adulthood, 44 million have suffered physical abuse, and 55 million have been victims of psychological violence (WHO, 2020).
  • Nearly 3 out of 4 children (300 million children) aged 2-4 years regularly experience physical punishment and/or psychological violence at the hands of their parents and caregivers (WHO, 2022).
  • Internationally, early intervention in cases of abuse/neglect is advocated as the most crucial and effective way to reduce the adverse effects of child maltreatment, as it provides the opportunity to mitigate serious, irreversible consequences (Conroy, & Brown, 2004).
  • It is estimated that globally, up to 1 billion children aged 2-17 years have experienced neglect or have been victims of physical, sexual, or emotional violence during their lifetime (Hillis S, Mercy J, Amobi A, Kress H. 2016).

Eliza warmly thanks Spyros and Lina Theodoropoulou for their complete contribution to the creation of the new Unit. Additionally, the Unit is staffed with a child psychiatrist, through the support of Goldman Sachs Gives in collaboration with the Bodossaki Foundation.

The President of the Republic, Katerina Sakellaropoulou, along with the Deputy Minister of Health, Dimitris Vartzopoulos, and the Professor of Pediatrics – Pediatric Hematology/Oncology at the Democritus University of Thrace, Director of the Pediatric Clinic, and Head of the Unit, Elpidoforo Mantadakis, with the hospital staff inside the new Unit.

The President of the Republic, Katerina Sakellaropoulou, with the Founder and President of the Eliza Society, Marina Karela.

The Founder and President of the Board of Directors of Eliza, Marina Karela, in her thanksgiving speech, mentioned, “Everything we do is delivered to public schools, public hospitals, to the police, to the Citizens. A prerequisite for the implementation of Eliza’s actions is the cooperation with people who understand the necessity of our purpose, such as the Administration of the University General Hospital of Alexandroupolis, which accepted the creation of the Unit. Mr. Mantadakis embraced it. Spiros and Lina Theodoropoulos generously contributed to its creation, and the Bodossaki Foundation contributed to its empowerment with a child psychiatrist. Your presence here today gives us strength to continue.”

Professor of Pediatrics – Pediatric Hematology/Oncology at the Democritus University of Thrace, Director of the Pediatric Clinic, and Head of the Unit, Mr. Elpidoforos Mantadakis, stated, “The medical and nursing staff of the Pediatric Clinic of the University General Hospital of Alexandroupolis (UGHA) joyfully inaugurates the Child Safety Care Unit in collaboration with the Eliza. The new space created at UGHA for the assessment of children with suspected abuse and neglect is well-equipped, extremely child-friendly, and discreet. Although the management of the Pediatric clinic of UGHA, despite its continuous efforts, has not yet found a specialized pediatric scientific collaborator for the Unit, we hope that this will happen in the near future. It is certain that the unit will contribute to the early recognition of abused and neglected children, as the phenomenon of child abuse and neglect is underestimated in Greek society and internationally, despite dramatically affecting the lives of the children who experience it. We are grateful to the selfless donors of the unit and we hope for the ongoing assistance of Eliza, as well as for the future help of the Greek state for the appropriate staffing of the Pediatric clinic of UGHA, which is closely connected to the new unit.”

Spiros and Lina Theodoropoulos, who provided all the necessary funds for the creation and equipment of the Unit as well as for covering the cost of a full-time pediatrician, stated, “We realized the need to create a Child Safety Care Unit in the border town of Alexandroupolis and supported without hesitation this initiative of the Eliza Society. The expansion of Care Units to pediatric departments of public hospitals across the country will contribute to early intervention in a phenomenon that, as is now clearly evident, undermines the physical and mental health of Greek society, as what happens in our childhood follows us into adult life, leaving indelible marks. It is our obligation to stand responsibly against such a painful phenomenon. We willingly took on this obligation and wholeheartedly wish to contribute to the ultimate goal of eliminating violence against children.”