Ensuring child-friendly justice through the effective operation of the Barnahus-units in Finland
What is the project?
The European Union/Council of Europe Joint Project “Barnahus in Finland – Ensuring child-friendly justice through the effective operation of the Barnahus-units in Finland” aims to ensure that all children in Finland involved in child abuse investigations benefit from a high-quality assessment in child-friendly settings, appropriate psychosocial support and child protective services.
In 2019, Finland initiated its own nationwide Barnahus project to be implemented around the core of five university hospital expert units specialising in forensic psychology/psychiatry (Barnahus-units). The EU-CoE Joint Project Barnahus in Finland sets to support the Finnish authorities in addressing the needs and challenges identified since the launch of their project so as to reduce significant existing delays in the pre-trial and judicial processes involving children.
The project is co-funded by the European Union and the Council of Europe and is implemented by the Council of Europe's Children's Rights Division over 30 months (1 September 2021- 29 February 2024) in Finland.
12 Oct 2021 11:54:00Strasbourg 12 October 2021
The Council of Europe is currently implementing the Project “Ensuring child-friendly justice...
What is Barnahus?
Barnahus (Children’s House) is a child-friendly response model for the coordination of criminal and child welfare investigations of child sexual abuse cases. It brings under one roof all relevant professionals (the judge, the prosecutor, the police, social workers and medical professionals such as psychologists, forensic doctors) to obtain from the child victim of sexual abuse the necessary information for investigation and court proceedings, and to help the child by preventing re-traumatisation and providing support, including medical and therapeutic assistance. Originally developed by the National Children’s Advocacy Centre in the United States, the model was introduced and adapted to the European context by Iceland in 1998.
The model was recognised in 2015 as a promising practice by the Committee of the Parties to the Council of Europe Convention on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse (Lanzarote Committee), is already replicated in Sweden and Norway and is in the process of being adapted in more than a dozen of other European countries.
What do we aim to achieve?
Improving the legislative and policy framework for the functioning of Barnahus services
The project will support an assessment of the existing legal and policy framework for the operation of the Barnahus-units in Finland as well as a report with recommendations to review relevant legislative and regulatory provisions for implementing Barnahus services in the country. The assessment will focus on pre-trial and judiciary procedures for cases on violence against children, the roles and responsibilities of key actors, and multi-agency information exchange.
Strengthen inter- and multi-agency coordination mechanisms
In order to reduce the duration of judicial processes related to children victims of violence, the project will support Finland in the development of tools for inter-agency coordination, information sharing and case management. The project will use the tools to train professionals working in Barnahus-units and relevant agencies, including the police, the children protection service, the judiciary, and social workers.
Increase awareness on child sexual abuse through child participation
The project sets to increase awareness on child sexual abuse. To that end, the project will carry out a comprehensive study on the perceptions of children and adolescents on the quality and friendliness of judicial services available for child victims and witnesses of violence, develop a child-friendly communication strategy on child sexual abuse and Barnahus services, and develop information and sensitisation materials based on the results of the study.
Who do we work with?
National Barnahus-project steering group will act as an Advisory group for this project. The steering group is composed of the representatives from following organisation:
Who will benefit from the project?
The project targets Finnish national and local authorities, as well as professionals in contact with children and dealing with cases of child sexual abuse. They will benefit directly from the project through training and other supporting and capacity building measures provided. The project targets notably the judiciary and legal professionals, professionals carrying out forensic interviews and health professionals, in particular staff of the Barnahus-units.
The final beneficiaries of the project are children at risk of or victims and/or witnesses of any type violence, including physical and sexual abuse. Children will eventually benefit from increased access to justice, more effective state response and more child-centred and child-friendly practices during the processing and management of child sexual and physical abuse cases.
Ultimately, the Finnish society as a whole will benefit from the project with the wider public reached through awareness raising and promotional activities. The project will contribute towards a more aware society that is capable of identifying, preventing and responding to child abuse.