Focus On: Child Focus

Child Focus’ mission, both at national and international level, is to support parents/family of a missing or a sexually exploited child, to actively support the investigation of the disappearance,  abduction or sexual exploitation of children and to study, to prevent and to combat these phenomena, online as well as offline.

Child Focus acts independently and in the interest of the child without any discrimination. As the Belgian 116 000 hotline for missing children, Child Focus can be reached 24/7 for reports and questions related to missing and sexually exploited children. It also runs the civil hotline for child sexual abuse images on the Internet (www.stopchildporno.be) as well as a helpline for all questions related to e-safety for children (www.clicksafe.be). Based on the information it gets from its case work, Child Focus exploits new expertise that adds to the development of awareness raising projects and communication initiatives.

Prevention is an important pillar within Child Focus, with the development of educational tools, websites and pedagogical material, as well as trainings in all different shapes and manners. The Child Focus Academy, hosted within the department ‘Prevention and Development’ gives over 1.200 training sessions per year to very diverse stakeholders.

Child Focus is active in the prevention of the following matters:

  • missing children,
  • abduction of children by a parent or stranger,
  • runaway children, and
  • sexually abused and exploited children.

Child Focus was founded on the initiative of parents of missing and murdered children.

As the Belgian 116 000 hotline for missing children, Child Focus takes on the five different case of disappearances:

runaways, abduction by a third person, missing unaccompanied migrant minors, lost/injured or otherwise missing children and abductions.

CHILD FOCUS AND THE BELGIAN SAFER INTERNET CENTER

Child Focus undertakes a very active stance in assuring the wellbeing of children, also relating to their online behaviour and experience. In this context, it has undertaken a series of important intiatives in the field. Most importantly, Child Focus operates as the Belgian Safer Internet Center. As such it promotes a safer and better use of the internet and mobile technologies among children and young people. As an awareness centre, Child Focus offers children, parents, teachers and other professionals, advice and tips on how to avoid risks when using the internet and take advantage of its potential. Child Focus works with a large network of national stakeholders to develop tools, give advice and disseminate information. Child Focus launched in 2002 the first and only civil hotline in Belgium to fight against child abuse images on the internet:www.stopchildporno.be. The hotline works closely with specialized law enforcement agencies, and, thanks to this collaboration, Child Focus is a privileged partner of the Belgian police. The hotline is well known among the general public and highly consulted.

Furthermore, in June 2011, Child Focus launched a helpline aimed at offering children, young people, parents andthe general public advice on how to deal with harmful contacts, conduct and content. The helpline is also closely linked to Child Focus’ awareness raising website. In this same context, Child Focus has developed educational tools which aims at youth and their educators. In 2016, the Belgian helpline launched a large successful communication campaign “Surf Safe”.

THE SAFELY ONLINE INITIATIVE

In 2007, Child Focus initiated with the Gezinsbond the Safe Online Initiative in Flanders and has been co-organising it ever since. It is mainly responsible for the content of the workshops / training sessions and the recruitment, training and coaching of the trainers. On 20 November 2018, in an award ceremony that took place in the Safer Internet Forum in Brussels, Belgium, Mariya Gabriel, the Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society, announced that the Flemish SafeOnline initiative is the winner of the #SaferInternet4EU Awards, that are organized by the European Commission. As such, the Belgian SafeOnline initiative is currently recognised as the best practice in Europe in its ability to tackle issues such as fake news, cyberbullying, connected toys and privacy concerns, grooming, exposure to harmful or disturbing content and cyber hygiene issues more generally.

ROLE OF THE PARTNER IN THE PROJECT

Child Focus is the lead partner of the project. As such it has the responsibility to bring unity to the various elements that make up the project. Child Focus will also lead the operational and financial management of the project and the decision-making processes. Child Focus will, also, bear the obligation to undertake the financial documentation and the reporting procedures for the overall project budget. Child Focus maintains also a central role in the project as the holder and the carrier of the innovation. Child Focus will undertake all the necessary actions and the activities in order to facilitate the replication and the scaling up of the Flemish SafelyOnline initiative into the other participating regions and national contexts, the socalled adoption territories. The purpose of Child Focus is to pass the batton to a number of southern and eastern European countries and to the French-speaking part of Belgium. This will be achieved mainly through the following

actions and activities:

  • documentation of information, processes and procedures
  • transfusion of tacit knowledge which makes formal knowledge work in actual application
  • capacity-building training activities in the adopting organisations
  • superintendence of the implementation phase in the adopting organisations

Finally, Child Focus has the responsibility to put into place the quality plan and to undertake all the actions and activities relating to quality insurance concerns of the project.

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