Children’s rights at the centre of the CBSS Expert Group on Children at Risk work

The Expert Group on Children at Risk at the CBSS is one of the main actors in the Baltic Sea Region when it comes to child protection services. This article aims to provide a short and concise summary of the work that the Expert Group performs. At the same time it turns to the future and what projects lie ahead.

The main objective of the CBSS Expert Group Children at Risk 2020-2025 strategy is to enhance national child protection systems through regional exchange and cooperation. The value of regional cooperation to strengthen and support national child protection systems is significant. Experience has shown that engaging in cross-border dialogues to address the complex issue of building and sustaining child protection systems can significantly improve the overall effectiveness of the systems. Collaboration and exchange of promising practices strengthen trust among stakeholders and enable the development of more resilient and inclusive child protection systems.  

Creating resilient and effective child protection systems poses a multi-faceted and multi-dimensional challenge. They involve a wide range of actors such as children, families, communities, and sub-national or national-level authorities. They consist of formal and informal structures, functions, and capacities to prevent and respond to abuse, violence, and exploitation of children. The systems rely on human and financial resources, laws and policies, governance, and protection and response services.  

The Expert Group provides a platform that fosters regional exchange and cooperation, sharing good practices, promoting cooperation and collaboration, and establishing partnerships, ultimately resulting in mutual trust among stakeholders in the region.  

Olivia Lind Haldorsson, Senior Adviser, Head of the Children at Risk Unit

Recent crises, such as the COVID-19 pandemic and the war against Ukraine, have highlighted the importance of effective and resilient systems. A recent mapping of child protection systems, led by Norway with the participation of Estonia, Finland, Germany, Iceland, and Lithuania, and funded by the CBSS Project Support Facility, aimed at identifying key practices and success factors of effective and resilient systems, including in crises. The countries’ national legislative, policy, and strategic frameworks are founded in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. The child protection systems are well developed and encompass legal frameworks, governance structures, a plethora of programs ranging from prevention to response, a highly trained workforce, and decentralised services. The mapping also highlighted promising cross-border practices. For more information about the mapping, click here.   

The mapping will result in a regional registry of noteworthy practices. The registry – published later this spring – will provide a knowledge base to explore further regional collaboration and trust.   

Olivia Lind Haldorsson, Senior Adviser, Head of the Children at Risk Unit

Exchange on national protection systems can be critical to effectively addressing and resolving emerging challenges. The German Presidency’s priority on online child sexual abuse is one such challenge. Many of the member states have experienced an increase in online child sexual abuse cases.  A recent survey of Barnahus in seven European countries established that Barnahus have seen an increase in cases that concern child sexual abuse that have an online element. There is a consensus that more data and research are needed. By working cross-borders, countries can tackle this emerging challenge in a coordinated and more effective way by sharing resources, information, and promising practices.   

To facilitate cross-border cooperation, we are working with partners from the region to collect data on online violence against children. We aim to gain a deeper understanding of online child sexual abuse and to develop evidence-based preventive measures. We are also working to adapt multidisciplinary and inter-agency service models to support the protection, justice, and recovery of child victims and witnesses of online sexual violence. In this work, we aim to implement and evaluate tailored protocols and procedures to ensure that victims of online child sexual violence receive appropriate and holistic support and provide training for multidisciplinary and inter-agency teams in cases related to online child sexual abuse.