During November 1998, the CBSS Working Group on Democratic Institutions discussed the idea of launching an IT project. This idea was a result of a previous meeting on children at risk, which featured a demo of video teleconferencing technology. At the meeting, the Commissioner of the CBSS referred to his earlier proposal to establish national contact-points on children’s issues in all CBSS member states. The contact-points would have as their primary goal to ensure that all CBSS countries continue to prioritise international co-operation on establishing better conditions for children. In order to ensure the political backing of the project members of the contact-points should include senior officials.
A ministerial meeting “Children at Risk in the Baltic Sea Region” was held in Stockholm on 17 March 1999, at which the Swedish Minister for Social Affairs set up a special group for children at risk in the Baltic Sea Region in cooperation with the Norwegian Ministry for Children and Family Affairs. This group of four core representatives developed the idea of the IT network and also how to organise the cooperation among the member states on a more permanent basis.
The “Cyber house” or “Child Centre” was envisioned to be a place to share knowledge and information. The visual of a house depicted how the IT network should function: different online “rooms” for different groups such as policymakers, scientists, professionals, children and young people. With the concept of becoming a ‘Barnahus on the internet,’ the aim of the IT network is to raise the level of knowledge about how to prevent the abuse of children, to protect children at risk and to rehabilitate children who have been neglected, physically or sexually abused.
The idea was remarkable for its time, and as such difficult to be fully realised as planned.
The first meeting on the establishment of an IT-Network concerning Children at Risk in the Baltic Sea Region was held in Stockholm in April 1999, which was attended by CBSS staff. A follow-up meeting in Visby in 1999 agreed on the initial plan for the IT-network, which would tie the member states together through a single server. The most immediate success of this decision was anchoring the cooperation. In addition to the planning discussions, the meetings on the development of the IT network also featured exchanges of national practice.
By November 1999, The Swedish Special Group for Children at Risk in the Baltic Sea Region, together with the Norwegian Ministry of Children and Family Affairs, started the work to create a home-page on the internet called ‘The Child Centre for Children at Risk in the Baltic Region’.
During June 2000, the group that would later become the CBSS Expert Group on Children at Risk met for the first time to discuss a priority paper for their work. They agreed their work should include the development and maintenance of the Child Centre.
During September 2000, the first meetings were held of the professional groups who would oversee the adoption and success of childcentre.info in their national settings. They discuss their roles and responsibilities, and developed their working methods. The defined roles were:
- National Co-ordinators, who discussed the structuring and planning the IT Network for Children at Risk in the Baltic Sea Region.
- Competence centres, who were specialists who would be involved in the development of the thematic rooms hosted on the website.
The website was launched February 2001.
The website was a vibrant platform for both public and private exchange for many years. However, technologies and internet usage rapidly evolved, and the Child Centre eventually went into disuse and was de-commissioned. At that time it became the website of the CBSS Expert Group on Children at Risk, which has since changed URL to childrenatrisk.eu and now has been integrated into the website of the CBSS at childrenatrisk.cbss.org.
The initial development of the Child Centre was co-funded by the EU STOP programme until 31 December 2001, at which time its budget was integrated into the budget of the CBSS Children at Risk Unit, with additional contributions from certain member states from time-to-time.