Thanks to the hospitality of the Swedish Embassy, and the support of the PROMISE II project, Maria Gorosch, police officer in the Stockholm Barnahus, and Alda Hrönn Jóhannsdottir, Icelandic prosecutor visited Budapest and met with various professionals, to share their experiences about working in the Barnahus model.
First we asked the experts about the role of police in the Barnahus, and the training they receive. The two country models differ in this regard, as in Iceland it is a specially trained psychologist who conducts the interview, and the police only participates in the monitoring room, while in Sweden the police is responsible for the whole process of investigation, including the interviews. For this, they receive a 10-week course linked to a University, following the NICHD protocol, but also psychological, developmental theories and information on trauma. Then they start work and they use the recorded interviews they make to analyse how they are doing. In order to maintain their training they go back every second year for two weeks, and this includes again reviewing the video recorded interviews they had made. In Iceland police does not receive such rigorous training, so they rely on a psychologist to do it for them: these psychologists were trained in the US following the same interview protocol. The process is coordinated by the judge who makes sure the process does not take more than 2 weeks.
Participating police officers and child protection professionals asked the experts about the legal representative of the child, and how parents get involved: Hungarian colleagues were rather shocked to learn that even non-offending parents are not participating during the interview (as guardians of the child) and that only the legal representative of the child is present. Maria Lazaryne, the founder of Szombathely Barnahus and the Barnahus Knowledge Center pointed out that both small and older children often insist their parents not be there for the interview. In Sweden there were cases, especially when the child was very small, that parents stayed, because the child insisted on it. In these cases a best interests determination needs to be made, and all decisions need to be made with this in mind.
Last but not least, professionals wanted to know about cases where both perpetrator and victim were children under the age of criminal liability, and indeed they both got assistance at Barnahus, as even perpetrators at this age are most probably victims as well.
The project PROMISE II. is being co-funded by the European Union.