Danish study shows the importance of a medical evaluation for every child who attends Barnahus
Jun 28, 2022
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During a 2-year pilot, 100% of children (205 in total) who were suspected of experiencing violence in close relationships and who were referred to Barnahus via the Copenhagen police for an audio-visually recorded investigative interview were systematically offered a forensic medical screening. This is a full forensic medical evaluation combined with a health and wellbeing screening, which results in a short report with an option to order a complete forensic report.

Key findings:

  • About half of children examined had signs of violence and/or illness
  • More than 25% of children examined had findings that could support suspicions of violence in close relationships
  • More than 25% of children examined needed follow-up for their physical or mental health
  • Fewer than 5% of parents refused to consent
  • Children do not experience the examination as a new assault. Rather, they feel taken seriously, and that their health and wellbeing is important. Most report they had a ‘good’ or ‘very good’ experience
  • Professionals did not find the approach too time consuming
  • Police say it helped to identify cases that otherwise would probably not have been investigated further due to the child’s explanation, the available evidence, and other doubts
  • The pilot led to the wellbeing and health perspective being included in the assessment of the child to a greater extent than previously, when only very few children were offered a medical examination
  • Providing systematic forensic medical screenings for very young children age 0 to 4, who often are not interviewed, helps to improve equity in Barnahus services for this group

The report is currently only available in Danish, with a video presentation of the project with English subtitles.

The report is published by Børnehus Hovedstaden. It is the result of project that was a collaboration between Børnehus Hovedstaden, the Section for Child Abuse at the Copenhagen Police and the Department of Forensic Medicine at the University of Copenhagen.

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