Child Focus, a model that Switzerland should follow
To ensure its mission, the Belgian organization works hand in hand with local authorities. In Switzerland, we are still far from it.
Child Focus is a true and unique European reference in the field of missing minors. With its longstanding experience it has developed the best search protocols of missing minors and efficiently supports victims in Belgium. The organization acts as an essential complementary service to the authorities, due to the fact that its very existence stems from popular will.
In 1996, following the worldwide repercussion of the Dutroux affair, a White March took place in the streets of Brussels to denounce the police and judicial dysfunctions that affected the case. In parallel to a reform of the police force, which will take place few years later, a better protection of the child is demanded.
One year later, parents of missing children met and signed a charter, the founding act of Child Focus
Two situations, one goal
Like Missing Children Switzerland, the Belgian organization was created following a highly publicized tragedy. But the recognition of Child Focus by the authorities and the means used to ensure its mission differ drastically from the situation in which our foundation finds itself.
In Switzerland, the phenomenon of missing minors remains somewhat invisible. There are no official national statistics to mesure the extent of the problem.
Furthermore, the Swiss authorities are reluctant to include external organizations in the process of missing children. Even when it comes to victim support.
Room for improvement
The figures speak for themselves: Child Focus deals with more than 1,000 cases of disappearance per year in a country of almost 11.5 million inhabitants, while Missing Children deals with 65 cases per year in a country of 8.6 million inhabitants. It's therefore to be feared that many cases in which the Foundation could have been useful unfortunately remain untreated, with potential consequences for the people affected.
Although some progress has been made, such as the recent participation of Missing Children Switzerland in a police exercise in canton of Vaud, there is still considerable room for improvement in the collaboration with the public authorities. And as the only Swiss organization to offer care to victims, it is imperative that the Foundation be considered as soon as possible as a true complementary service to the police and other social actors.
This type of collaboration has already proved its worth in the overwhelming majority of countries that have the 116 000 emergency hotline. It is now time for Switzerland to get up to speed.