Polish presidency 2015-2016 features roundtable on foster care

Two projects were also launched during this time: PROMISE, promoting the Barnahus model, and AudTrain II, continuing the work with system based audits.

Member Terms of Reference

A Terms of Reference for members of the CBSS Expert Group on Children at Risk was introduced, which describes the overall tasks of the representatives both within the meetings of the group and at home nationally. The Chair (vice-chair) decides on daily matters and the country representative decides in which projects they will engage.

Name of the Expert Group

The Expert Group changed its name from the CBSS Expert Group for cooperation on Children at Risk to simply the CBSS Expert Group on Children at Risk. The acronym EGCC stayed the same.

The group also decided the Children’s Unit at the CBSS Secretariat should be called the Children at Risk Unit.

The logo and website for the Expert Group was updated to reflect these changes. The colors of the logo were updated to join the colour scheme of the CBSS.

These changes were included in a future mandate for the Expert Group which was formally approved by the CBSS Senior Officials in 2017.

The Warsaw Roundtable on Deinstitutionalisation and Foster Care

On 20 April 2016, the Polish Presidency hosted the Warsaw Roundtable on Deinstitutionalisation and Foster Care. Members of the Expert Group and additional experts from Poland discussed the member states’ progress since the Tallinn Recommendations from 2015. The meeting was opened by Mr Bartosz Marczuk, Undersecretary of State, Ministry of Family, Labour and Social Policy, who presented the values, policies and priority of the new Polish government to strengthen the family and position of children.

The experts exchanged best practices in achieving deinstitutionalization, ensuring quality of child care facilities through monitoring and follow-up, and ensuring children’s views are heard. The governments and implementing agencies have made progress by adopting a strategic approach to continuing deinstitutionalization and encouraging foster care. Legal and policy reforms combined with additional resources for capacity building and early intervention as well as intensive development of services for families who bring up children are also helping families be better able to care for children, reducing the need for alternative care. Ongoing challenges include the increased need for foster careers in several of the member states, including those where many unaccompanied children are arriving, and the ability to monitor how the foster system works for the individual child.

The meeting noted that investments are needed to increase the opportunities for children to voice their concerns and to be part of strengthening the child protection system.

PROMISE – promoting the Barnahus model throughout Europe

The PROMISE project was launched, promoting a multi-disciplinary and interagency approach to gathering evidence for the court system with the participation of the different sectors and with a view to preventing re-traumatising the child.

PROTECT Children on the move

The EU co-funding for this project came to an end. The project launched two substantial Guidance reports and a portal on the Wikipedia on the human rights and the best interests of the child in transnational child protection cases (now defunct).

As a follow up to, and based on the documentation from the PROTECT project, the Nordic Council of Ministers and the CBSS joined forces to train stakeholders in the region. Trainings were organised in Riga and in Tallinn.

AudTrain system based auditing of child welfare facilities

A second phase of this project was approved for funding by the European Commission. The project aimed to update the existing materials, develop a train the trainers module, and run trainings for both new users and future trainers. trainings in the system based audit of child welfare facilities. The project was launched and training commenced during this presidency.

UN cross-regional roundtable

The Expert Group hosted this year’s UN cross-regional roundtable focusing on preventing and protection children against violence. The meeting encouraged the regions of the world to link up to the new sustainable development agenda 2030, which is explicit on children’s right to a life without violence. The meeting is organised by the UN Secretary General’s Special Representative on Violence against Children.

Unaccompanied children

Unprecedented and growing numbers of children on the move, including unaccompanied children, were arriving in the European Union at this time. In response, the CBSS and the Central European Initiative began talks to co-organise an international conference of their respective member states on the topic.

EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region

The strategy now includes a Flagship on Comprehensive and Sustainable Child Protection, under Policy Area Secure, which covers the portfolio of work undertaken by the CBSS Expert Group on Children at Risk.

Expert group meetings

The Expert Group met twice in Warsaw during the year. First on 17-19 November 2015 and second on 18–19 April 2016 in Warsaw. The November meeting in November was extended to include a field visit to different foster care setups in Poland, and the April meeting included a roundtable discussion on deinstitutionalisation and foster care.

Expert contributions

The Expert Group contributed to the Council of Europe by supporting the work of the Lanzarote Committee and by taking part in developing a new strategy for the Rights of the Child.