Institute of Child Health, Department of Mental Health and Social Welfare" [EL] has implemented CAN prevention programs, professionals' training, bringing together research & social policy cooperating with Ministries to adopt institutional measures



The Institute of Child Health (ICH) is a semi-public agency and is funded by the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare. Since 1977, the Department of Mental Health and Social Welfare (previously, the Department of Family Relations) has carried out research and action research, and offers continuing education programs for professionals and specialized services to families and institutions. Our main aim is studying intra-family (active and passive) violence against children, as well as the prevention of children’s victimization.

Due to its specialization, since 1988 the Division has been operating as a Centre for the Study and Prevention of Abuse - Neglect (CAN Center) under the No 2350/14-11-88 decision of the Minister of Health and Welfare. More specifically, the objectives of policies / priorities related to children who suffer from violent behaviors in their family environment, have led this Department to conduct quantitative and qualitative research, with emphasis on primary, secondary and tertiary prevention.

  • Primary, secondary and tertiary prevention programs
  • Education and sensitization of professionals encountering child abuse and neglect in their everyday practice
  • Sensitization of the public and modification of relevant social attitudes and behaviors
  • Bringing together research data and social policy through cooperation with the Ministries of Health and Social Welfare, Justice and Internal Affairs so that legislation/institutional measures are adopted
  • Collaboration with European Institutions on carrying out international research projects on the violations of children’s rights

Concurrently, action research is carried out on the effects of child maltreatment, and on the general function of the family, while identification and treatment services are also offered. Research on children’s protection services in Greece also takes place, while empirical data stemmed by this kind of research have already been used as a basis for the construction of intervention programs in relevant institutions, as well as for the creation of innovative structures. In addition, innovative “education-action” programs are developed such as the support-through-counseling program for professionals aiming at preparing professionals to encounter difficult cases of intra-family violence against children.

Our Department, following the international appeal for the protection of children’s rights, and in response to the UN Convention (1989) and the Greek Law (Ν 2101, ΦΕΚ 192/2.12.92), has developed a special interest in this field. Our Department has developed a Framework Program for the promotion of children’s rights in Greece and Europe, which includes various actions all around Greece, in cooperation with primary school teachers. We also collaborate with various European institutions concerning the mobilization through political lobbying aiming at empowering children’s positions as a distinct social category in European Union’s conventions.

The educational initiatives of our Department comprise of publications of relevant scientific material, organization of conferences and seminars, production of audiovisual material and participation in continuing education programs of other institutions. Moreover, the Department functions as an Information Centre for international and national bodies working with issues related to child abuse and neglect and child protection, in general. Finally, the Department runs a specialized library, which is open for professionals and university students.

The Department of Mental Health and Social Welfare is a member of various international Organizations (Council of Europe, etc.) and scientific institutions, such as:

  • International Society for Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect (ISPCAN, Chicago, USA)
  • The European Children’s Network (EURONET, Brussels)
  • Bureau International Catholique de l’ Εnfance (ΒΙCΕ, Brussels)
  • European Association for the Scientific Study of Residential Care and Fostering (EUSARF, Leuven)
  • The Bridge Child Care Development Service (London)
  •  Global Initiative to End Physical Punishment, (London)
  • Bernard van Leer Foundation (Hague)

The phenomena of interpersonal and intra-family violence and violence against minors constitute critical points of articulating health education policies at international level. The critical nature of these phenomena and the alert of relevant International Organizations could be understood from the following:

  • In 1998, 2.3 million people died from violent death
  • The World Health Organization (WHO) adopts scientific estimations that interpersonal violence in 2020 will rise from the 19th to the 12th position in the list of the 30 most important causes of death worldwide
  • A study carried out in Sweden states that one in five women has suffered abuse, more often during adolescence and childhood
  • The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 40.000.000 children become victims of violence worldwide
  • Studies in various industrialized and developed countries have estimated that violence against under-aged children ranges from 3% to 29% for boys and from 7% to 36% for girls.

The inclusion, in 1996 by WHO, of child abuse and neglect and its adverse effects among public health problems underlines the importance of education in preventing and addressing this issue. The Convention on the Rights of the Child and efforts to promote health at individual and societal levels have set a new basis for child protection in the family. The main message of the aforementioned Convention is that each child should be considered as a subject with rights, instead of as an object which needs protection. The right to protection from all forms of exploitation and the right to live in a happy family should be the goal of every law-abiding society.

The Institute of Child Health (ICH), since its founding by S. Doksiadis and according to Presidential Decree (P.D. 867/1979), has been an innovative structure based on the principles of multidisciplinary cooperation, combining clinical practice, research and epidemiology. Currently, ICH is under scientific re-structuring, especially after the change of its legal status according to the Law 3370/11.07.05, and its subsequent transformation into a Research Institute (under the Law 1514), supervised by the Ministry of Health and Social Solidarity and the Ministry of Development (General Secretariat for Research and Technology).

The Department of Mental Health and Social Welfare (previously known as the Department of Family Relations), since its foundation in 1979, has focused on child abuse and neglect issues by:

  • Conducting research (epidemiological/demographical and clinical)
  • Promoting health education and sensitization of the public
  • Offering continuing education programs for professionals
  • Offering counselling and organizing support actions to institutions and professionals
  • Offering specialized services

In this context, the Department of Mental Health and Social Welfare, through its multidisciplinary constitution, combines the diverse treatment of its subjects from different scientific perspectives (Psychiatry, Social Work, Clinical Psychology, Sociology, Criminology, Psychodynamic Theories, Public Health and Social Anthropology). Specifically, the purposes of our Department include the following:

  • Study and promotion of health family relationships and children’s rights
  • Study of Greek families in psycho-social crisis related to children’s victimization
  • Development of methodologies for the identification of parental risk
  • Epidemiological and clinical approach of child abuse and neglect as a public health problem
  • Development of community-based prevention programs
  • Promotion of health and children’s rights in the family, school and community

The aforementioned interests are approached through research, as well as clinical and educational work. This body of work includes quantitative studies on intra-family sexual violation issues, use of physical punishment in children’s education, identification of high-risk factors for child abuse and neglect, and qualitative studies on incest and sexual violation within the family.

To date, our Department has carried out:

Research on child abuse and neglect, intra-family sexual violation, incest, use of corporal punishment in children’s education, dystrophy of non-organic causes, prediction of the level of risk of families’ predisposed to violence (Bridge ALERT), identification of predictive factors for child abuse and neglect, attitudes and intervention practices carried out by health professionals, and on the effects of institutionalization on children.

Identification and treatment of all types of child abuse and neglect.