The 34th International Symposium was organized by the National Children’s Advocacy Center in Huntsville, Alabama from the 19th to the 23rd of March 2018, with the participation of experts in the field of child abuse and neglect from across the world, hosting more than 160 workshops on victims’ treatment and support.
The International Symposium on Child Abuse is a premiere conference that provides expert training and numerous networking opportunities to professionals in the child maltreatment field, and is one of the few conferences that addresses all aspects of child maltreatment, including but not limited to physical abuse, sexual abuse, neglect, exposure to violence, poly-victimization, exploitation, intervention, trafficking and prevention.
This year the Symposium attracted more than 500 delegates from all over the United States, but also from Canada, Australia, Ecuador, Cayman Islands, Santa Lucia, Luxemburg and Sweden. “The Smile of the Child” from Greece was invited to organize a dedicated workshop by sharing the Greek experience and the work done in the field through its specialized facility of “The House of the Child” Day Center, unique in the country in the provision of dedicated services to victims’ treatment and support.
The Scientific Responsible of the Day Center, Chairperson of the Lanzarote Committee of the Council of Europe and Director at the Mental Health Division of the Institute of Child Health in Greece, Dr. George Nikolaidis, provided a brief overview of the phenomenon of child abuse and neglect in Greece, presenting the most recent representative figures on the scope and range of the problem, but also the main characteristics of the difficulties and shortcomings in pre-existing services and provisions for victims in Greece.
Particular emphasis was given to the work and operating methods of the Day Center, whereas clinical examples of cases handled by the Day Center were presented and thoroughly discussed among the delegates of the Symposium. The aim of this workshop was to illustrate the perplexities of keeping the forensic investigation distinct from the treatment (which in real life can be challenging, given also shortcomings and failures of procedures in Greece).
In turn, different clinical cases were also presented highlighting the particular challenges of long-term treatment and rehabilitation of children victims of abuse and/or neglect in the Greek society’s context.
The delegates of the Symposium showed particular interest in learning from the good practices and challenges of the Greek example, as well as the broad spectrum of actions of the Organization “The Smile of the Child” in the field of preventing and dealing with child abuse and neglect.
A number of informal meetings were conducted on the margins of the 34th Symposium with delegates from different countries who exchanged experiences of working in the field, and also explored the potential for further exchanges and opportunities for collaboration in the future.
A few words on “The House of the Child” and the Child Advocacy Center (CAC)
“The House of the Child” was established in 2014 by the Organization “The Smile of the Child” with the aim to provide Customized Mental Health Services to Children and Adolescents, victims of any form of abuse, neglect, and domestic violence, and is comprised of a multi-disciplinary therapeutic team which undertakes a holistic and comprehensive evaluation and treatment. Since 2014 more than 650 children have received 12.500 therapeutic services from the multi-disciplinary team of “The House of the Child” Day Center.
In the framework of the close partnership between the Greek Organization and the US National Child Advocacy Center (NCAC), “The Smile of the Child” has set this facility at the disposal of competent authorities (judicial, prosecutorial and law enforcement authorities), as well as healthcare professionals in order to ensure child-friendly justice for victimized children through a unique testimony from victimized children.
Based on the US model of the Child Advocacy Centers, the Head of the National Child Advocacy Center, Chris Newlin, provided a training seminar in Athens in 2014, with the support of the US Embassy in Greece and the coordination of “The Smile of the Child”, with the goal to train professionals on the multidisciplinary model of the Child Advocacy Center.
“The Smile of the Child” has developed close bilateral cooperation with the US National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), whereas it participates to the Board of Directors of the Washington DC-based International Center for Missing and Exploited Children leading the global efforts for the protection of children across the world