In 2011 the Netherlands Youth Institute in partnership with organisations in Germany, Hungary, Portugal and Sweden was granted a two-year project within the framework of the Daphne III programme of the European Commission: preventing and combating violence against children, young people, women, victims and at-risk groups. Entitled ‘Prevent and Combat Child Abuse: What works? An overview of regional approaches, exchange and research’, the project aims to compare policies and practices on the prevention of child abuse and neglect in Europe, The project also has a research component into experiences of parents regarding programmes. The final report of work stream one (available below) focuses on strategies in all of the participating countries ranging from prevention to treatment.
There are considerable differences between the child welfare systems in Germany, Hungary, Portugal, Sweden and The Netherlands in terms of allocating responsibilities. One similarity is the decentralisation of the services related to preventing or tackling child abuse and neglect from national to lower (mainly local) government close to parents. However, there is an unclear delineation between holistic and dualistic systems across the countries. For example, the Swedish and Dutch systems fit one of these categories whereas the Portuguese system has elements of both. Moreover, there is an apparent difference between policy and practice in Hungary.
There is a diverse range of universal and preventive services in all participating countries. Three varieties of services are available in almost all countries: early child education and care; health care services for pregnant women, children and young people; and parenting support. However, the universal services do not have an explicit role in detecting child abuse in all countries. Schools and child welfare services offer alternative potential preventive services.
There are significant differences, both within and between countries, concerning whothe reporting obligations regarding suspicions of child abuse and neglect apply and where to make these reports . Reporting duties at the national level exist in Hungary, Portugal and Sweden. In Germany reporting duties exist at the national level and at the level of the Länder. In The Netherlands, there is no reporting duty and the law of a mandatory reporting code has yet to come into effect. In most countries immediate action can be taken in in case of child endangerment. Various types of care services are available for victims of child abuse and neglect, their families, and perpetrators, including –but not limited to- programmes for developing competencies for parents and psychological and psychiatrist services for children. Several bottlenecks have been identified in care services across the participating countries, including the lack of specific treatment programmes for victims and perpetrators and a lack of resources.
The integration of services occurs in various ways across the participating countries. For example the Dutch youth and family centres are a result of enforced cooperation by the government, whereas the Swedish equivalents are the products of grass-roots initiatives. Both are considered good practices of integrating services. Confidentiality legislation and practices can work to constrain the integration of services. However, in most countries exceptions can be made in the case of suspected child abuse and neglect. Moreover, products have been developed to aid the integration of services, including laws, documentation systems, information manuals and case coordination.
The education and training of professionals about preventing, detecting, reporting and/or treating child abuse and neglect differs across the participating countries, . In the Netherlands this very rarely features in initial training, whereas in Hungary, Portugal and Sweden it depends on the profession. Good practices were identified in Sweden in terms of local projects combating staff turnover and in the Netherlands in terms of specific training courses. Obstacles across the countries included the non-uniformity of initial training within the countries, the financing of further training and the fact that further education and training does not meet the needs of professionals or their employers.
The output from the project include national reports produced by the participating organisation in each country – specifically the Swedish Orebro regional council, the Hungarian Family Child Youth Association, the German Youth Institute, CESIS in Portugal and the Netherlands Youth Institute in the Netherlands – as well as an overview report of all countries involved. Upcoming products of this project include a report from The Verweij Jonker Institute in The Netherlands about the experiences of parents and professionals in the participating countries. In addition, the German Youth Institute and its Dutch counterpart are writing a manual about ‘What works in tackling child abuse and neglect?’.
The following country reports about combating child abuse and neglect can be accessed here: