PROMISE is supporting Europe to adopt the Barnahus model as a standard practice for providing child victims and witnesses of violence rapid access to justice and care. The CBSS Expert Group on Children at Risk is working to promote the Barnahus model by engaging in practical projects on children’s rights and child protection in the Baltic Sea Region.
Currently, the Expert Groupont Children at Risk is working on the following PROMISE projects:
1. Multidisciplinary interagency services for child victims of trafficking
Addressing the specific needs of child victims of trafficking and exploitation.
The Expert Group on Children at Risk is working to strengthen the opportunities and means for coordination between authorities and actors, specifically in responding to trafficking cases and authorities and actors involved in responding to violence against children and ensuring child justice processes more generally. It is developing standards and guiding principles for national and transnational referral mechanisms incorporating a specific focus on child victims and incorporating a specialised and child-centred multidisciplinary response for child victims of trafficking, drawing inspiration from multidisciplinary and interagency services for child victims and witnesses of violence (Barnahus), in national and transnational mechanisms. Promoting integrated child protection systems is intrinsically linked to preventing and protecting children from violence.
This work supports the implementation of key elements of the EU strategies on trafficking, victim’s rights, and children’s rights with a specific aim of contributing to the implementation of provisions to ensure child-friendly justice and safe pathways to recovery and durable solutions set out in international and European legal frameworks.
Furthermore, this work promotes early identification, adequate assistance and protection, access to child-friendly justice, long-term assistance and social inclusion and durable solutions for children who are suspected of being trafficked (physical and online trafficking) by ensuring coordination of child protection and criminal justice proceedings in a child-centred, multidisciplinary manner.
2. Adapting Barnahus processes for online sexual violence cases
Promoting multidisciplinary and interagency service models for child victims and witnesses of online sexual violence
The aim of this work is to:
- contribute to competent and committed multidisciplinary teams equipped to provide a holistic and balanced intervention, including investigation and assistance
- support specialised professional interventions and operational capacity adapted to the specific requirements and needs that may arise in the context of cases involving some form of online child sexual violence,
- contribute key experience and learning from the work to regional policy development and exchange, in particular in light of ongoing EU Strategies relevant to the field, and proposed revision of EU instruments.
The main activities of this work will be to:
- implement and evaluate the effectiveness of protocols and procedures adapted to the specific requirements and needs that may arise concerning online child sexual violence,
- provide training in building multidisciplinary teams and interagency collaboration in cases concerning online child sexual violence, and specialised interventions including investigation, medical, therapeutic, crisis support and victim support. The work will furthermore include a strong element of child and youth participation.
These activities seek to ensure early identification, adequate assistance and protection, access to child-friendly justice, long-term assistance and social inclusion and durable solutions for children who are suspected of being trafficked (physical and online trafficking) by ensuring coordination of child protection and criminal justice proceedings in a child-centred, multidisciplinary manner.
3. Promoting inclusive and resilient child protection systems
Enhancing the ability of national child protection systems to work effectively on transnational cases and supporting excellence in practice of child protection in Barnahus.
The Expert Group on Children at Risk is working to strengthen national child protection systems and Barnahus specifically by:
- strengthening the national practice of well-functioning, accessible and resilient child protection systems that are adequately structured and equipped to function to protect children, including in periods of crisis and emergencies such as the Covid-19 pandemic, and the Russian invasion in Ukraine,
- strengthening the national child protection system’s ability to work on transnational cases, including cases of third-country children seeking protection within the EU or unaccompanied children moving from country to country within the EU,
- enhancing the contribution of Barnahus as one important component of the broader child protection systems, whilst promoting excellence in practice in referral, assessment/screening, support, coordination, protection and follow-up in cases of violence against children.
4. Ensuring safe and informed pathways through Barnahus
Securing that all relevant authorities and services work together with the child in their best interests, from initial report to long-term recovery.
This work has several objectives, including to:
- design, pilot, and evaluate an adaptable working method for a child liaison who ensures the child is heard, feels comfortable and is safe to participate effectively,
- develop practical and child-friendly tools, an app and a child log, to inform child victims/caregivers and to log their journey through Barnahus,
- raise awareness and advocacy on the local, regional, national and international levels.
Children who have suffered violence will be the primary beneficiaries of this work. We expect it to result in:
- increased capacity to inform, support and enable participation of child victims,
- increased quality of information and continuous support to child victims,
- improved awareness and knowledge about child victims’ rights among wider public and duty-bearers,
- improved transnational cooperation and exchange to achieve the Barnahus Quality Standards.
5. Evaluating the impact of Barnahus on the criminal justice system
Piloting an evidence-based tool to measure the impact of Barnahus in supporting the rights and the needs of child victims of sexual abuse
The Expert Group on Children at Risk aims to gain a deeper understanding of how to measure the impact of the Barnahus model in criminal proceedings and to provide objective results on the impact of the first Barnahus in Spain. Its main hypothesis underlying the testing of the assessment methodology is that the implementation of the Barnahus model may increase the number of cases involving child sexual abuse that is being revealed to the Criminal justice system and that can be prosecuted and sentenced. It also expects that Courts in Tarragona will prioritise the use of pre-constituted evidence, thus reducing the number of statements of the child victims in front of professionals while enabling an increase in the prosecution rate and, presumably, also in convictions. Overall time elapsed since the case was opened is expected to be reduced. The testing will confirm or refute the hypothesis, thus providing a snapshot of the effects of the Barnahus pilot. All data collected will be disaggregated whenever possible in terms of sex, age, disability, nationality and any other personal or social circumstance to ensure that results allow for the measurement of differences.
Apart from developing the tool, the expert group will carry out exchanges and training activities to encourage awareness-raising among professionals and a better adjustment of legal tools for protecting child victims in criminal proceedings. The testing results in the Barnahus pilot in Tarragona will be key to identifying the needs of professionals and developing awareness-raising, capacity-building and training activities for criminal justice professionals. The expert group will design content for tailored and evidence-based training for judges, prosecutors, lawyers, police officers, forensic doctors and other judicial staff on child-friendly justice and mechanisms to reduce secondary victimisation. Exchange activities will be developed throughout this work, and training will be provided at the end.
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