Letter from the President – February 2021
Mar 1, 2021

Dear Network members and stakeholders,

At the time of publishing this annual report, a bit more than a year has passed since the launch of our network in Helsinki in November 2019. It has been a challenging year. While we are yet to completely understand the full impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, our members have shared their observations and experiences of the negative effect on children at risk of violence, child victims and witnesses of violence and the work of Barnahus. And, you have inspired us with your commitment to adapt, to build back and to develop innovative practice under difficult circumstances.

Our member and expert-driven network has played an important role in keeping professionals connected across borders during the pandemic. We have continued to provide opportunities to learn through training, surveys, and exchange. Important steps have been taken to develop our Barnahus Competence Centre. Our website continues to develop into an important resource and our body of tools and guidance is growing. The Barnahus Quality Standards are now available in 16 languages!

Our network keeps growing. We now have 31 members from 22 countries and continuously receive new applications to join our movement. We celebrate our expansion as a key opportunity to grow our collective body of knowledge, connections, commitment, and enthusiasm to promote Barnahus in new countries, and reach more professionals and children with excellence in practice.

Beyond welcoming new members, we have also built stronger relations with counterparts in Central Eastern Europe, Australia, Canada and the US. Our network continues to be a valued partner to the EU and other international organisations. We are particularly excited about the opportunity to contribute to the work of the Council of Europe to support progress for Barnahus in Ukraine.

With the growth of our European and global network, we expand our circle of influence towards fulfilling our Promise vision, which is at the heart of all our work. The work of our Promise experts to renew the Promise vision is an important step towards keeping the foundation of our work relevant and up to date with recent and emerging developments in Barnahus across Europe. For example, our renewed emphasis on a balanced approach, with all the four rooms equally represented in the multidisciplinary response to children in Barnahus, is a response to concerns raised by professionals that some services operate in the shadow of others. 

As the circle of influence of the Network expands, we see the Barnahus increasingly referenced by name in national strategies and regional guidance. Notable mentions include the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child’s concluding remarks on the periodic report for Hungary, which took note of and encouraged additional legal measures to implement the model. In addition, the EU Strategy on Victims Rights 2020-2025 notes that the forthcoming EU strategy on the rights of the child will contain targeted actions on child victims of crime such as a continuous promotion of Child’s Houses, with a footnote about how Barnahus is currently spreading to all countries in the European Union and internationally.

2020 also saw the birth of our first network working group. The focus on child participation is particularly welcome as our network endeavours to promote this central area of our work in the coming years. The group has engaged in a mapping of how Barnahus involve children and a vibrant exchange on how to build a participatory culture in Barnahus. Expect exciting things to come from this group in the first half of 2021!

The Council of the Baltic Sea States is very proud to act as the Secretariat for the Promise Barnahus and continues to be fully committed to the Network’s development and growth as the leading voice for Barnahus in Europe and beyond.

During this first year, our network membership has firmly displayed that we – together as a network – stand fit and ready to act on whatever challenges and opportunities that 2021 may bring. We look forward to continuing our exciting path together!

From the 2020 Annual Report of the PROMISE Barnahus Network

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