Montenegro is dedicated to ending violence against children and implementation of a multidisciplinary approach to prevent and end violence as well as preventing re-victimization of children victims and/or witnesses of violence. Within the Global Partnership to End Violence, it is one of the pathfinder countries. In this regard, among many other things, Montenegrin national Strategy for the Prevention and Protection of Children from Violence with the Action Plan 2017-2021 envisaged establishing the Children’s House for the victims of violence, within the Specific objective 2: Improvement of the institutional framework for professional, quality and efficient child care and protection.
Upon request of the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare, the ChildHub decided to support organizing a study visit to one of the Children’s Houses for the victims of violence already established in Europe. The aim of this study visit was to provide the representatives of relevant Montenegrin institutions with all the necessary information and enable them to get acquainted with the way the Barnahus (Children's Home for children victims of sexual violence) in Tallinn, Estonia. Some of the topics discussed were in relation to the functions and setup of Barnahus, which sectors/professionals/profiles of the experts are involved, the procedures in place and all other important details related to its establishment and functioning of a Barnahus. In addition, the importance of a forensic interview and the prevention of the re-victimization of the child victim of violence was emphasized.
The Estonian model of the Barnahus was selected for the study visit as it is most similar to the one that will be established in Montenegro, where the lead institution will be the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare. The host of the study visit that took place on 13-15 May 2019 was the Child Protection Department of the Estonian Social Insurance Board within the Ministry for Social Affairs of Estonia as the Barnahus is an institution under the auspices of the Estonian Social Insurance Board.
Montenegrin delegation was composed of the representatives of the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare – Goran Kusevija, Director of the Directorate of Social and Child Protection (Deputy Minister), Svetlana Sovilj, Advisor at the Directorate of Social and Child Protection (violence against children and children without parental care focal point in the Ministry) and Dijana Popovic-Gavranovic, the Head of Professional Service for support of juveniles in proceedings within the Supreme Prosecution Office (both victims/witnesses of violence and juvenile perpetrators). In addition to the social Welfare institutions, this Professional Service has an important role as it assesses and supports/prepares children/juveniles for hearing with support of audio-visual equipment adapted to children’s needs. The delegation was accompanied and supported by Milena Karisik, EVAC Associate for Montenegro.
In addition to visiting the Children’s House (Barnahus), this was the opportunity for Montenegrin delegation to learn more on approaches Estonia has in regards to child protection - information on the Social Protection System in Estonia, reformed in 2016, functioning of the Ministry of Social Affairs, the Social Insurance Board and its Child Protection Department as well as the Equality Policies Department and the activities and types of support provided (support to victims of family violence and sexual abuse; among many different types of support for the victims- the shelters for the victims of violence, in line with the Istanbul Convention, funded by the State; alternative care services etc.). The delegation learned of the activities Ministry of Justice - Crime Policy Analysis Department and its cooperation with the Ministry of Social Affairs. For current Montenegrin context, it was especially interesting to learn about the research and analysis of data and activities related to the sexual abuse, child friendly justice, hate crimes, victims and perpetrators, as well as about the activities of prevention of sexual abuse – statistics, analysis, research and activities of the department for the data protection.
Montenegro delegation also visited the Centre for Children at Risk (Tallinna Laste Turvakeskus) which provides rehabilitation service, with compulsory school attendance, for children with behavioral disorders who need assistance due to the deficiencies incurred in guardianship and upbringing, and contributes to the re-socialization of the child and decrease in antisocial and dependent behavior. The delegation has visited the National Institute for Health Development (Tervise Arengu Institute), Family and Parenting Unit where Early prevention program for families with children, the Incredible Years, an evidence-based programme that brought many benefits not only to parents and children but also State in terms of investment and outcomes. PRIDE program for foster, kinship and adoptive parents was also presented where the delegation had the opportunity to compare experience from Montenegro in regards to the development of foster care. In addition, the delegation also visited the NGO SA Kiusamisvaba Kool successfully implementing the KiVa school-based anti-bullying program - evidence and science-based program with the whole-school approach aiming at bullying prevention, solving occurring cases effectively and minimizing the negative effects of bullying.