Institution of Women’s and Children’s Health at the University of Uppsala
Uppsala/Region Dalarna, Sweden
One of the most important areas to prevent sexual abuse and violence against children is to identify children at risk as early as possible. Mental illness, abuse, domestic violence and parental stress (e.g., due to family finances) are examples of risk factors. Eventhough Sweden has a well-established child protection system, too many children and families still fall between the cracks. All too often, this results in families receiving help when their children have already been affected. Early interventions provide the best opportunity to influence children’s health and development in a positive direction. Small effects on the individual level can, over time, lead to large-scale change.
Intervention when children are at risk
Sweden’s Child Health Centers (BVC) have for many years used a questionnaire to identify mothers at risk of developing/or having already developed postpartum depression and to provide the right support at an early stage. However, this did not include fathers. Childhood has chosen to invest in the development and research of a model called “BarnSäkert” (Child Safe) to identify and intervene as quickly as possible when children are at risk in their families – and to ensure that they receive help from the right authority.
Questionnaire for parents in connection with the regular check-ups at the Child Health Centers
BarnSäkert is a project implemented in partnership with the Institution of Women’s and Children’s Health at the University of Uppsala and the Child Health Centers in Uppsala and Dalarna. In order to shed light on and quickly identify risk factors in vulnerable families and guide them to the right support, the Child Health Centers have changed their mode of working to involve both mothers and fathers. The method is based on the American model “Safe Environment for Every Kid (SEEK)”. In connection with the regular check-ups at the Child Health Center parents are asked a number of questions – ranging from smoke detectors to alcohol consumption, mental illness, financial concerns or domestic violence – to identify the need for support.
Now part of the permanent check-up program at the Child Health Centers in Dalarna
All Child Health Centers in the region of Dalarna have participated in this pilot project that has reached more than 24,000 children and their parents. More than 10,000 questionnaires, in eight different languages, have been submitted by participating parents. The project has also established a close cooperation with the local social services agency – an important prerequisite to guarantee support for the children and families in need. As a result of the research project, the BarnSäkert questionnaire is now a permanent element at all Child Health Centers in Dalarna and is also spreading to other regions in Sweden. Pilot projects, financed by the regions, are underway in Uppsala, Jönköping, Gotland and Blekinge, among others.