The 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:
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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.
NON-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.
Read more about the project here.
Co-financed by the European Union under the Rights, Equality and Citizenship Programme 2014-2020. (2016 – 2018).
Article 19 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) maintains that States must take measures to “identify, protect and assist victims, to report, refer and investigate violence and to ensure access to redress violations”. General Comment 13 provides guidance to States and other actors to adopt measures set out in article 19. The CRC general principles, survival and development, non-discrimination, best interest and participation are central to all the work to protect children against violence. EU Directives, Council of Europe Conventions, Guidelines and recommendations affirm these rights. Child victims’ encounters with systems set up to protect them often expose them to mental stress. Proceedings are not designed for children, and, as a result, their rights to assistance, information, and the right to be heard in manner that is adapted to their age and development are not always fulfilled. The CBSS and seven partners, including Barnahus and several similar services, have been granted EC funds for a project to promote multi-disciplinary and inter-agency services for child victims of violence in Europe. We are in particular promoting the Children’s House (Barnahus) model, which has been recognised by children, care-givers, guardians and child protection professionals as a good practice. Children’s rights to protection as set out in the CRC, its optional protocols, general comments and resolutions are the basis of the project, which contributes to a number of European initiatives to ensure child-friendly assistance and justice. By developing useful tools and holding targeted trainings, exchanges and conferences, this project will disseminate good practice, standards and strategies on the basis of research, guidance, exchange, study visits and training in Europe. Key focus is placed on a) methodology, strategies and standards for MD/IA collaboration b) delivering child centred services in a MD/IA context, including therapy, medical support and collecting evidence without causing re-victimisation c) effective measures contributing to an enabling environment for MD/IA services. The project is co-financed by the European Commission.
For more information see the project’s website.
The 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. In 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.
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.
For more information, visit the project’s web page.
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.
For more information visit the projects’s website.
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, EGCC, 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.