The Norwegian Presidency of the CBSS Expert Group on Children at Risk focused on good practices and building trust between the systems in the region. It featured a project, with funding from the CBSS Project Support Facility, which mapped child protection systems and promising practices. This work contributed knowledge about child protection systems in the region and forms the basis for further collaboration and trust in the Baltic Sea Region.
The presidency also focused on the consequences Covid-19 has had and still has on vulnerable children and families within the region. The Expert Group shared what they have learnt during the crisis, including experiences and knowledge that hopefully will strengthen our child protection and child welfare systems in normal times as well as in similar times of crisis in the future.
Additionally, the Norwegian Presidency of the CBSS focused on three overall aims: accelerating cooperation on the green transition, fostering regional identity and cooperation, and supporting the current mandates of the CBSS on civil protection, children at risk and trafficking in human beings.
Presidency conference on Resilient and inclusive child protection systems
On 8 June 2022, the Norwegian Presidency of the CBSS organised a conference in Oslo (hybrid) to introduce the results of a comprehensive mapping of national child protection systems and promising practices in the Baltic Sea Region.
Looking at child protection systems in seven countries in the Baltic Sea Region, the mapping identified good practice and core elements of inclusive, sustainable, and resilient national child protection systems, that provide a continuum of protection, including in times of crisis. The mapping also made note of good cross-border practice that contributes to mutual trust and cross-border collaboration between national child protection systems.
The conference provided opportunities for reflections on key elements of resilient and inclusive child protection systems, including in crisis, promoting a common understanding, collaboration and mutual trust among child protection systems and actors across borders.
Expert group meetings
The expert group met twice during the year. At the 4 November 2021 meeting, the Expert Group followed up on earlier discussions about Covid-19 and its impact for children at risk, and discussed setting up a child and youth advisory board. At the 9 June 2022 meeting, the group discussed the outcomes of the conference and how to adjust the budget to account for the resignation of Russia from the CBSS.
In addition, two informal roundtables were organized in response to the war in Ukraine.
Covid-19’s impact on children at risk
The expert group acknowledged that the Covid-19 pandemic has had an adverse impact on many children in our region, especially on children in already vulnerable situations.
One of the many challenges presented by COVID-19 for children, is that risks to children may go undetected, as everyday activities closed down. The expert group emphasises the need to systemize efforts to support vulnerable children, through strong collaboration and partnerships between Government and local authorities, NGOs and private foundations and service providers. Social services are a critical function of societies during times of crisis. The expert group further highlights effective measures to ensure children’s participation and involvement. The expert group took note of the need to consider studying the long-term effects on children and youth of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Member states quickly developed innovative measures to counteract the challenges brought by the Covid-19 pandemic, including by integrating child participation into the design and implementation of measures. Noteworthy practices include for example online information campaigns, access to helplines and FAQ for children and caregivers, national coordination mechanisms, mobile child protection teams, and online reporting mechanisms.
Child and youth working group
The meeting further discussed a concept to set up a Children at Risk Child and Youth Working Group. The proposal is a response to the expert group priority on child participation in the 5-year strategy to “explore concrete methodologies for ethical and meaningful child participation in the context our work, promoting the inclusion of children from a diversity of backgrounds and situations.” The proposal also draws on the Baltic Youth Vision Statement Beyond 2030 Children at Risk, which promotes “Meaningful youth participation demands a structured entry point for young people to take part in the decision-making”. The Children at Risk Expert group supports the creation of a Children at Risk Child and Youth Group and have tasked the Secretariat to proceed with the next steps.
War in Ukraine
In response to the war in Ukraine, the Expert Group had two informal roundtables to exchange information about the situation on the ground, and how each country is responding to the influx of refugees. The expert group noted the increased importance of sustainable and resilient child protection systems, along with having strong collaboration and trust in the Region, in order to properly respond to the needs of children and their families during dynamic societal challenges.
As Ukraine is an observer state to the CBSS, Child Welfare authorities from Ukraine were invited to one of the roundtables. The members and the delegation from Ukraine found it especially useful to directly exchange information within the collaborative and trusted environment as provided by the Children at Risk platform at the CBSS.
The CBSS published Guidance on the use of photos of children to clarify both its own internal policies, and also to guide other actors away from potentially unethical usage of images in traditional and social media of children fleeing the war in Ukraine.