On 28-29 November 2016, professionals from around Europe came in Linköping to gather inspiration to launch an innovative way to support child victims of violence in their own countries. The conference and study visit took place over one and a half days, gathering practitioners, national authorities, NGOs and regional bodies from across Europe. The objectives of the conference included to facilitate regional exchange of good practice and to build a strong European movement for multi-disciplinary and inter-agency services, which embody international and regional legal obligations. Director of Child and Youth Protection Center of Zagreb, Gordana Buljan Flander, PhD, and Center`s psychologist Ana Marija Španić joined the conference and the study visit. The first day was dedicated to the conference, including presentations from key experts in the area. The second day was dedicated to a study visit at Barnahus Linköping.

Visit to Barnahus Linköping

The regional conference and study visit to Barnahus Linköping were organized as a part of the PROMISE Project, co-funded by the European Union through the Rights, Equality and Citizenship Programme (2014-2020). The co-organizers include Barnahus Linköping, Child Circle in Brussels, Belgium, and Linköping University. The project is additionally supported by the Barnahus in Stockholm and Iceland, the Verwey-Jonker Institute in Utrecht, the Netherlands, and the Kenter Jeugdhulp in Haarlem, the Netherlands.

At the meeting, HM Queen Silvia returned to Linköping, 11 years after inaugurating the first Barnahus in Sweden, to give her support to the European Barnahus movement. Her advocacy played a key role in the establishment of Barnahus in Sweden. The World Childhood Foundation, which The Queen founded, helped to establish Barnahus Linköping and continues to support the establishment of Barnahus around the world.

Queen Silvia gave her full support to the Barnahus model

The regional conference started with Turid Heiberg debriefing on the project, its progress and next steps, while Bragi Guðbrandsson presented the development and implementation of the Barnahus model in Europe.

Conference Session 1 was dedicated to the advocating for Barnahus with Olivia Lind Haldrosson moderating the session. HM Queen Silvia held an inspiring speech in which she gave her full support to the Barnahus model. During the same session England`s Child Commissioner Anne Longfield presented how advocating for Barnahus is moving on in England, and Åsa Landberg introduced the audience with the process of advocating for Barnahus in Sweden. Center`s Director Gordana Buljan Flander also participated at the panel discussion presenting the Child and Youth Protection Center in Zagreb and the advocating process preceeding it`s opening.

Session 2 was dedicated to the creating an enabling environment with Peter van der Linden as moderator and Daja Wenke, Andrea Wagner Thomsen and Tone Davik as presenters. Andrea Wagner Thimsen presented the legal frameworks in Denmark and Tone Davik gave implications of law on the work of Barnahus in Norway. In the last session 3 Bragi Guðbrandsson moderated the introduction of the Barnahus model, with Elisiv Bakketeig presenting the comparison of Barnahus Model in Nordic Countries and Annna Pettersson and Anna Nelsson giving an interesting introduction to the study visit to Barnahus Linköping that was planned for the second day and was inevitably successful and informative.

The Barnahus model was founded in Iceland in 1998 and the second ever Barnahus was launched in Linköping in 2005. In the Nordics, this multi-disciplinary and interagency service model forms an integral part of the welfare and judicial system. It provides support to child victims and witnesses to violence, giving them access to justice, avoiding re-victimisation and ensuring recovery. In a child-friendly environment, the many sectors involved in a civil or criminal investigation work in coordination under one roof. This helps the child to be able to tell a complete story. When the story is recorded and submitted as evidence to a court proceeding, the child does not need to face the accused in court. As part of the process, victims have direct access to care and support services at the Barnahus.

About the PROMISE project

The objective of the PROMISE project, which runs from 2015 to 2017, is to promote child-friendly, multi-disciplinary and interagency services supporting child victims and witnesses of violence, providing them with access to justice, avoiding re-traumatization and ensuring high professional standards for recovery. Drawing on UN, EU and Council of Europe law and existing Barnahus models, this project aims to strengthen capacity, knowledge and exchange between government’s justice and child welfare sectors, the medical field, public/private forensic and therapeutic services as well as child rights NGOs and advocates. The project promotes a one-stop approach for child victims and witnesses of crime, limiting the number of interviews and ensuring comprehensive care including social, medical, therapeutic and legal support.

PROMISE is managed by the CBSS Secretariat (Children’s Unit). Partners include the Child Circle, HAPI, Verwey-Jonker Institute, Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Trauma Unit and Barnahus in Iceland, Linköping and Stockholm. It also builds on the expertise of prominent specialists in law, sociology, pediatrics, psychology and psychiatry from different European countries. The Pilot Countries engaged on the project are: Bulgaria, Cyprus, Estonia, Germany, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Romania, and the UK (England and Scotland). These countries have been identified as having the interest and potential to transform their current services for supporting child victims and witnesses of violence into a multi-disciplinary and interagency cooperation. The pilot countries will learn from existing Barnahus and similar models and also exchange experiences amongst themselves in order to support national level capacity-building and multi-disciplinary and interagency implementation strategies.

Key documents and presentations held at the conference and study visit are available on the PROMISE project website: http://www.childcentre.info/promise/

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