The Barnahus model prevents, protects, and responds to violence against children

Barnahus limits interviews for justice and welfare proceedings

The fundamental principle behind Barnahus is to prevent repeated interviews by many agencies in different locations. Research has shown that repeated interviews can be very traumatic for the child and may result in “re-traumatisation”, or the amplification of harmful consequences that can be as severe as the abuse itself.

The Barnahus model is known for its child-friendly and interdisciplinary approach, whereby different professionals work under one roof. It offers streamlined access to protection, justice, and recovery for children, while preventing re-traumatisation and putting the child at the centre of all processes.

The Barnahus process

In Barnahus, a trained investigative interviewer interviews the child in a special room. The interview is observed from another room by a multidisciplinary team with professionals from criminal justice, child protection, physical health, and mental health. Advocates for the child and the defence may also be present, as well as Barnahus staff.

The interview is audio-visually recorded and can be used as evidence in court. This arrangement makes it possible to gather all the information needed from the child in just one interview. In cases where further interviews are necessary, it limits the number to only those necessary to gather additional information relevant to the case.

After the interview, the child can be provided with non-invasive, trauma-sensitive medical examination on-site in the medical room. Medical professionals document the findings, sometimes using a video-colposcope, which records the examination on video.

Barnahus provides services for child victims and their families based on the diagnosis. Therapeutic services are also made available to the child, and an individual treatment plan is created.

Countries report that the Barnahus model provides a safe environment for child victims and witnesses of violence.

Expansion of the model

All CBSS member states have Barnahus; some for many years and others are moving from a pilot phase into full implementation.

Iceland developed the Barnahus model, inspired by the Children’s Advocacy Center model from the United States. The model has proven adaptable and scalable in several countries and made an important contribution to improving services for child victims of abuse in many countries. An additional feature of the Barnahus model in Iceland is that unaccompanied children are interviewed by a specialist in child development in Barnahús in a child friendly setting, while representatives from the Directorate of Immigration, child protection services and the child’s legal rights protector observes the interview from another room.

To learn more about Barnahus and its international adaptations, click here: