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A mobile app identifies factors linked to child maltreatment and guides to sources of support

Published on 3.11.2021
Tampere University
Henkilö kirjoittaa tekstiä ERICAPhoto: ERICA project, https://projects.tuni.fi/erica
A mobile app was developed to identify child maltreatment risk in an international research project led by Tampere University. The app measures concerns, which may be leading to maltreatment, and provides information on preventive support. The EU-funded ERICA project also developed a training programme for health professionals.

The mobile app involves filling in a form that contains 28 statements about a family’s situation. If the app identifies risk factors for maltreatment based on the answers, it advises the parents to contact, for example, a child health centre or other support service.

“Both child and family service professionals and parents can use the risk assessment app,” says Eija Paavilainen, professor of nursing science and coordinator of the project.

The two-year EU project involved six other European partners from France, Germany, Italy, Poland, and the UK (England and Scotland). The training programme and the risk assessment application, which are based on extensive multidisciplinary research evidence, will be translated into the languages used in the project. The partners will pilot the results in health services and other organisations that are providing services to families with children.

“We hope that the training programme and the app will become internationally established as tools for child maltreatment prevention,” says Paavilainen.

The ERICA project aims to prevent child maltreatment and raise awareness of child abuse and the conditions that put children at risk. The target groups include both parents and professionals in different fields. ERICA was funded by the European Commission for the period of 2019–2021.

Early intervention prevents the accumulation of problems

To ensure data protection, the respondents are the only ones to see the answers, which do not lead to any contact with health services or authorities. After a risk assessment, it is essential to offer counselling and refer the person to receiving support as soon as possible to avoid a build-up of problems. The risk mapping does not mean that a single issue or situation in the family would cause domestic violence, but many factors increase the risk.

“I believe that just filling in the form in the app shows that a person is motivated to do something about their problems. However, there is no single solution to maltreatment intervention, and we must always consider each family individually. It is important to motivate the family to get involved in planning the support measures,” Paavilainen explains.

“Addressing concerns and worries must happen as early as possible. It is good to talk to professionals about such issues as, for example, loneliness, problems with parenting, and stress. Bringing problems to the attention of professionals and having discussions in a timely manner are the best ways to strengthen the protective factors and to prevent problems from building up,” says Paavilainen.

The results of ERICA project are presented in a webinar on 4 November.  

The training programme for health professionals consists of modules on eg the risk factors of maltreatment, protective factors, and ways in which professionals can address the problems.

The mobile app and the training programme are presented in an open webinar on Thursday 4 November. MEP Sirpa Pietikäinen gives the keynote speech.

Erica project
Stopping Child Maltreatment through Pan-European Multiprofessional Training Programme: Early Child Protection Work with Families at Risk (ERICA)

projects.tuni.fi/erica/

Links to downloading the mobile app on the ERICA website

Enquiries:
Professor Eija Paavilainen
tel. +358 (0)40 190 4079, eija.paavilainen [at] tuni.fi
Faculty of Social Sciences
Tampere University