Expert Group on Children at Risk

CAR new logo without white headsThe Expert Group on Children at Risk (CAR) is a platform for regional cooperation on issues relevant to support children at risk. The Expert Group consists of senior officials from the CBSS Member States appointed by the ministries responsible for children’s issues in Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Poland, Russia and Sweden. The European Commission has a seat in the Group. Together the group shares national developments and discusses ways to address gaps in services, expertise and capacity. Activities and programmes are carried out together with national authorities and international and national organisations. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) and other international conventions and standards guarantees the world’s children human rights, dignity and integrity as well as safety and security. Based on the UNCRC, the CBSS Member States are implementing legislative, political and administrative measures in order to combat violence against children and ensure that children are safe, healthy, educated and motivated – thus enhancing societal sustainability and prosperity. The Expert Group is supported by the Children’s Unit at the CBSS Secretariat. Together they conduct research, develop trainings and nurture professional networks. Expert consultations are widely used to highlight good practices and agree on recommendations. Cooperation among ministries, academia, the private sector, civil society and children is encouraged at national and regional levels in order to strengthen local implementation capacity. The United Nations, Council of Europe, European Union and other regional entities are important standard setters that continue to inspire action and reflection.

As outlined in the CBSS Expert Group on Children at Risk Mandate, during July 2017-2020 the CBSS Expert Group on Children at Risk will support the member states in bolstering their child protection and welfare systems, notably in the following priorities:

  • Prevention, early intervention, parenting and family support
  • Child-friendly justice
  • The wellbeing and best interests of children in alternative care
  • Protecting children from sexual abuse and sexual exploitation
  • Preventing trafficking and exploitation of children
  • The best interests of children in migration

Visit our website for more information.

Comprehensive and sustainable child protection is a Flagship of the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region (EUSBSR).

Addressing Policy Area Secure, Comprehensive and sustainable child protection is a series activities and actions which follow the priorities and activity plan of the CBSS Expert Group on Children at Risk.

A multi-sectorial approach and cooperation among relevant authorities and other stakeholders both nationally and across borders is necessary to ensure the protection of people crossing borders. In cooperating transnationally to promote a multi-sectorial approach, these activities aim to end abuse, exploitation, trafficking and all forms of violence against and torture of children. Training modules, guidelines, research, exchanging lessons learned and best practices are regularly produced which are frequently used and applied by stakeholders working in child protection in the region and well beyond to improve their understanding, capacity, processes and regulations.

PROMISE 2 builds on learning from the first PROMISE project (2015-2017), which supported government officials and practitioners from more than 11 countries to establish Barnahus or similar institutions. A series of exchange meetings, study visits and capacity building efforts raised the level of knowledge of the government officials and practitioners, who also contributed to the development of standards and guidelines.

PROMISE produced a series of resources for government officials and practitioners who have an interest in establishing and operating Barnahus. The European Barnahus Quality Standards offer ground-breaking guidance and constitute the first attempt to define the principles and good practice standards for services that want to operate according to the Barnahus model. The PROMISE tracking tool provides a framework for services to assess their practice against the standards. The report Enabling Child-Sensitive Justice gives an overview of how the Barnahus model has emerged and gradually expanded in  Europe and the PROMISE Compendium of Law and Guidance provides a comprehensive review of international and European law and authoritative guidance concerning the rights of child victims and witnesses. Promoting Progress on Barnahus in Europe guides the development of national and regional advocacy strategies.

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For more information see the project’s website.

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This project is funded by the European Union through the Rights, Equality and Citizenship Programme (2014-2020).  

CAR-NV-Childhoods-Final1NON-VIOLENT CHILDHOODS: Moving on from Corporal Punishment in the Baltic Sea Region

The project promotes the elimination of corporal punishment and other cruel or degrading punishments of children though the changing of the mind-set and public opinion at large. The initiative will share, discuss and systematize the experiences in the Baltic Sea Region countries in transforming traditional attitudes with a wide range of target groups such as families, children and communities; policy makers, public officials and independent institutions; researchers; as well as with the media and faith-based organisations. Drawing on good practices, notably Finland and Sweden as pioneers of the ban, the project wants to strengthen capacity, knowledge and exchange between governments and relevant stakeholders by providing them with sustainable models of integrated public education and existing initiatives, programmes and information material. Laws, campaigns and programmes already existing in the Baltic Sea Region and beyond will also be mapped. Consultations with ministries, parliamentarians, ombudsmen, NGOs, academia and other related stakeholder groups are planned.

The outcomes of the mapping and consultations will contribute to the development of a comprehensive plan for sustained governmental and multi-stakeholder action to move from the prohibition towards the elimination of corporal punishment of children. The outcomes will also lead to guidance and targeted national-level trainings for key groups and topics, such as good parenting programmes or successful awareness-raising campaigns.

The project is managed in partnership with the Global Initiative to End All Corporal Punishment of Children and with Ministries of Estonia, Finland, Sweden and Latvia and the Ombudsman for Children’s Rights in Poland. It was developed in consultation with Ministries across the Baltic Sea Region and with input from other experts and organisations and agencies – campaigning for children’s rights and non-violent discipline in all kinds of services for families and children. The activities and goals are grounded in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and are in line with the efforts to address the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal Number 16: ending abuse, exploitation, trafficking and all forms of violence against and torture of children. Eliminating corporal punishment is a key preventative action in fighting all forms of violence against children.

EU flagcrop Read more about the project here.

 Co-financed by the European Union under the Rights, Equality and Citizenship Programme 2014-2020. (2016 – 2018).

PROTECT logo Child exploitation: Cross-national child protection in practice – ‘PROTECT Children on the Move’

During 2014 and 2015, with co-financing from the EU Commission’s Return Fund, the Children’s Unit at the CBSS Secretariat organised 5 expert meetings to discuss the state of transnational child protection and to share best practices. In bringing more than 250 experts from across the Baltic Sea Region and beyond, the meetings aimed to identify child rights standards and key agencies responsible for protecting children exposed to exploitation and trafficking in cross-border situations. The outcomes of the project will include a set of Guidelines for Promoting the Human Rights and the Best Interests of the Child in Transnational Child Protection Cases. The Guidelines are based on the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and give advice on how practitioners can work across both cross-sectoral and cross-national lines with the child’s human rights and best interest perspective as a common baseline. A wiki on transnational child protection will also be developed. Project partners are the Latvian State Border Guard, the Stockholm Social Emergency Center, and the Lithuanian State Child Protection and Adoption Service.

PROTECT Extension project During 2016, with financing from the Nordic Council of Ministers Trafficking in Human Beings Programme, the CBSS will use the Guidelines described above to increase the capacity of professionals responsible for handling transnational child protection cases. With the support of experts from the Region, a series of 2-day trainings will inform law enforcement officials, child welfare officials, NGOs, and child rights advocates in the Baltic Sea Region on how to identify, protect and eliminate the risk of exploitation and trafficking for children on the move. Participants in the trainings will become better informed on how to enhance children’s rights to be heard feel supported and to prevent exploitation and trafficking. The States CBSS Secretariat is the lead partner on the implementation of the project. The project involves cooperation with experts in trafficking in human beings in the Baltic Sea region, and the Nordic Council of Ministers’ offices in Latvia, Estonia, and Lithuania.


The cooperation between the CBSS and Nordic Council of Ministers continues into 2018 with a workshop series focusing on challenges and opportunities in the identification and referral of children on the move who have been victims of exploitation or trafficking. In addition to receiving input from national level experts from the Baltic Sea Region, recommendations from children are presented at each workshop. The recommendations are the result of facilitated discussions with children who have been through challenging situations – thus enabling children’s voices to be heard on the expert and policy levels. The facilitated discussions with children is a pilot of a storytelling method of hearing the child which has been developed by the CBSS.  

Identification remains challenging not only because children may be exploited in hidden places but also because the child trafficking definition is complex and difficult to apply in practice. Identification is often guided by stereotypes, which could prevent the identification of child victims who do not fall into the groups typically considered to be victims of trafficking. Children themselves are often unaware of being in a process that ends in exploitationFor the child, official recognition as a victim holds opportunities for recoveryGiven the complexity, the child’s story is the key to understanding what has happened, and interagency cooperation is essential to follow up each individual case thoroughly.

This workshop series is a continuation of an EU funded project that developed the Guidelines for Promoting the Human Rights and the Best Interests of the Child in Transnational Child Protection Cases and also the Practical guide for caseworkers and case officers. It is the second phase of the cooperation between the CBSS and Nordic Council of Ministers to combat exploitation and trafficking in children, and a notable component of the CBSS’s work to follow up on The Stockholm Conclusions Promoting Good Practices in Protecting Migrant and Asylum Seeking Children, especially Unaccompanied Children, and Finding Solutions for the Children, Families, Societies and States – December 2016.

The 2018 Oslo Conclusions on Identifying Children at Risk of Exploitation and Trafficking result from a multi-year process of analysis and consultation in the Baltic Sea Region and broader Europe. This regional process aimed to review evidence and learning about the situation of children at risk and existing measures to ensure their safety, well-being and development.

The second and third phase of the PROTECT project is co-funded by the Nordic Council of Ministers.

For more information visit the projects’s website.

ProGuard is a project that enables EU member states to further professionalise guardianship for unaccompanied children. The project will address the needs of guardians and the services that support them by developing and disseminating a toolkit and related training material.

ProGuard is co-funded by the EU and led by Nidos in the Netherlands. The partners include METAdrasi (EL), Danish Red Cross (DK), Jugendhilfe Süd-Niedersachsen (DE), Orphans court Latvia (LV), Amici dei Bambini (IT), Centre for missing and exploited children (HR), Child Circle (BE), National Institute for Health and Welfare (FI), Missing Children Europe and The Council of the Baltic Sea States. The project runs from October 2017 to 2019.

The CBSS will organise a meeting of Baltic Sea Region stakeholders on provisional guardianship of children in migration. This activity will be a key follow-up on the Unaccompanied Children conference from December 2016, which developed The Stockholm Conclusions Promoting Good Practices in Protecting Migrant and Asylum Seeking Children, especially Unaccompanied Children, and Finding Solutions for the Children, Families, Societies and States – December 2016.


Co-funded by the European Union

audtrain logoThe Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989) and the more recent UN Guidelines for the Alternative Care of Children (2009) include provisions on how states should protect the rights of children in alternative care. The Council of Europe Recommendation on the Rights of Children in Institutions (2005),  is another instrument assisting authorities in their work to eliminate any breach of the rights of the child during placement in a residential care setting. Auditing and monitoring of child residential care facilities is in place in countries in the region. However, the few professionals in the field often lack appropriate tools to conduct the audit and communicate the conclusions and recommendations. Furthermore, existing auditing is often used to spot inconsistencies in care rather than reviewing how the residential facility follows relevant standards. A large workload and the lack of tools as well as relevant guidance are often a challenge for the management and staff of care facilities. The partners of the first AudTrain project addressed this by increasing the capacity and skills among professionals who audit and monitor the situation with children in alternative care, thereby enhancing children’s rights to be heard, to be safe and secure, and to be supported in their development while in residential care. The project developed and disseminated a training model which has been used in national trainings and audits in the partner countries and has been adapted and used by third countries. audtrain 2 logoIn the fall 2015, a new project has been launched. With a grant from the European Commission, AudTrain II will update the training materials and use them to train new professionals in auditing and monitoring. A module to educate AudTrain trainers will be developed and new trainers will be trained. The project will also develop a monitoring tool in the form of guidelines based on international standards and arrange an advocacy conference. The Children’s Unit of the CBSS is the lead partner for the project, alongside project partners SOS Children’s Villages, Lithuania, SOS Children’s Villages Association of Estonia, and the Ministry of Welfare of Latvia, with SOS Children’s Villages of Croatia as an associate partner. In consultation with the project partners and other experts, Anniki Lai from Estonia and Eric Backer-Røed from Norway will design and deliver the training modules.

For more information about the project, visit its web page.

To express interest in taking part in a training, please contact the Children’s Unit.

robert official

Concluded in 2012. The ROBERT project aimed to make online interaction safe for children and young people and to empower them to be protected online. This was achieved through exchanging learning and experiences from online abuse processes, and discussing factors that make young people vulnerable and also factors that offer children protection. Perpetrators’ grooming strategies were also discussed, and the project developed an understanding of how abuse may occur in the online environment. This two-year project was funded by the European Commission’s Safer Internet Programme as a Knowledge Enhancement Project. It was managed and coordinated by the CBSS Expert Group for Cooperation on Children at Risk, then EGCC, now CAR, in partnership with:

Concluded in 2013. Efforts to address child trafficking in the Baltic Sea Region has so far mainly concentrated on cases of sexual exploitation. However, children are exposed to many different and multiple forms of exploitation, including begging and criminal activities. With the adoption of the new EU Directive on human trafficking in 2011, governments have specifically committed to address these forms of exploitation. Under a project supported by the Swedish Institute Baltic Sea Unit and the Norwegian Ministry of Children, Equality and Social Inclusion, teams of police, prosecutors, child welfare professionals and NGO experts from Lithuania, Norway, Poland and Sweden made site visits in the four countries. During the visits the group of experts examined the challenges to protecting children, who are suspected of being trafficked for exploitation in begging and/or in criminality. In addition to the site visits, a final roundtable meeting of 60 experts developed an understanding of the obstacles faced by child victims as well as the difficulties in prosecuting perpetrators. The final report of the project presents the discussions and the good practices from the four partner countries.

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