The PROMISE Vision

The vision of the PROMISE project is a Europe where the human rights of children to protection from violence, support and to be heard are fulfilled. To this end, child victims and witnesses of violence in Europe are protected by child-friendly interventions and rapid access to justice and care, based on the following main principles:

  1. Respect for the participatory rights of the child by ensuring that she/he is heard and receives adequate information and support to exercise these rights;
  2. Multi-disciplinary and interagency collaboration during investigations, procedures, diagnostic and needs assessments and service delivery, with the aim of avoiding re-traumatisation and securing outcomes that are in the best interests of the child;
  3. Comprehensive and accessible services that meet the individual and complex needs of the child and her/his non-offending family or caregivers;
  4. Ensuring high professional standards, training and sufficient resources for staff working with child witnesses and victims of violence.

The Barnahus model refers to multi-disciplinary and interagency interventions organized in a child-friendly setting fulfilling the following criteria:

  1. The forensic interview is carried out according to an evidence-based protocol;
  2. The evidentiary validity of the child´s statement respects due process, whilst avoiding a need for the child to repeat her/his statement during court proceedings if an indictment is made;
  3. A medical evaluation is carried out for forensic investigative purposes and to ensure the child’s physical well-being and recovery;
  4. Psychological support is available, including short and long-term therapeutic services addressing the trauma of the child and non-offending family members and caretakers;
  5. An assessment of protection needs is carried out and followed up concerning the child victim and siblings in the family.

PROMISE supports the involvement of national and local agencies, governmental and non-governmental, in establishing Barnahus and child-friendly institutions. It inspires progress in all countries by sharing good practices and high-quality standards for a European approach such as:

Preventing, investigating and responding to violence against children with multi-disciplinary and interagency cooperation among professionals and agencies in social and health care and criminal law before, during and after the judicial proceedings;
Identifying good practices in a) coordination, joint work and mutual adjustment between agencies; b) cooperation of agencies influencing each other; and c) collaboration in terms of shared services among agencies in a spirit of collective policy-making;
Raising awareness nationally on the rights of the child to a non-violent childhood.

To achieve this Vision, PROMISE promotes and supports the establishment of the Barnahus model, or similar models, in all countries in Europe and inspires efforts at the global level for increased multi-disciplinary and interagency collaboration to ensure that child victims and witnesses of violence benefit from a child-friendly, professional and effective response in a safe environment. Both the European and the global network of professionals are supported in spreading the PROMISE vision through webinars, communications and follow-up.

Goals, ambitions and challenges

PROMISE supports national actors in applying the Barnahus Quality Standards and other international and regional guidance material for child-friendly, multi-disciplinary and interagency cooperation.

Questions and challenges continue to arise in the establishment and operation of Barnahus. PROMISE provides an opportunity to consider some of these issues through roundtables and workshops at the national level. Additionally, Barnahus experts, project partners and interested government officials and practitioners have the opportunity throughout to submit reflections and suggestions on how to identify strengths and challenges in the current systems:

Today, in Europe, children who are victims of violence often face a system that contributes to their traumatisation. They wait a long time before receiving assistance from child protection services or for their case to be tried in court. They might be interviewed by several professionals and be treated in an intimidating manner.
The integrated and coordinated approach in the Barnahus offers the child an improved experience of a shorter child-friendly journey through services and procedures.
Barnahus offer all necessary services for child victims under one roof, including forensic interview, medical assessment and psychosocial treatment. It provides information and guides the child and guardians. Long-term follow-up is provided by the social services.
In bringing together agencies and disciplines, the Barnahus maximises intervention strategies and saves money by ensuring an efficient use of resources including staff time.
Strategies, action plans, laws or regulations define the role of Barnahus at the national and local level. Such frameworks should include the requirement in the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child that every child below the age of 18 have the right to protection from all forms of violence including sexual violence.
The best interests of the child is a guiding principle in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. In cases where criminal proceedings take prominence over the best interests of the child, Barnhus has an important role in balancing the requirements of the criminal justice process with the needs and rights of the child to assistance and protection.
Good practice shows that if an agency external to the Barnahus, such as the police, is responsible for the forensic interviews, it is most effective if a core unit of police officers is fully integrated into the Barnahus structure and management routines.
Clear procedures for the referral to Barnahus are necessary to avoid re-traumatisation caused by delays in admitting a child to a Barnahus. The procedures should include working closely with the child, parents and legal guardians as a way of having a strong emphasis on the needs of the individual child.
The national context and situation determine if certain groups of child victims, such as child victims of trafficking, should be interviewed and followed up by specially trained units within the police or other services outside Barnahus. Experience shows that these special units still benefit from the Barnahus expertise in certain situations.
Barnahus is a credible and competent actor in raising awareness about its multi-disciplinary and interagency services among the public and in exchanging lessons learned with other relevant sectors. It is recommended that regular overviews are conducted and statistics gathered to identify good practices and challenges of the follow-up of the child by the social services.
Some Barnahus accept young perpetrators without compromising the need for child victims to be in separate and safe surroundings. If a Barnahus offers co-location of services, two separate budgets should be allocated to the different groups to avoid competition of services.
A consistent good practice of Barnahus should be guided by internal assessments routines, monitoring and evaluations. An accreditation system to ensure high-quality standards is a future option.
The work is grounded in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, the EU Victims Rights Directive, the EU Child Sexual Abuse Directive, the EU Anti-Trafficking Directive and the Council of Europe Lanzarote Convention. It also draws from relevant EU and Council of Europe recommendations and guidelines concerning integrated child protection systems, child-friendly justice and child-friendly social services.
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