Daphne seminar: Italian conclusions translated into English



  2. In relation to the concept of mistreatment.
  3. In relation to the juridical framework.
  4. In relation to the competent organisations.
  5. In relation to the programmes and procedures.
  6. In relation to the existent co-ordination.
  2. Co-ordination within the same system at different levels of intervention (primary and specialised care).
  3. Co-ordination between the different systems (social welfare, health, education, etc.).
  2. Difficulties referred to the detection stage (health, education, social services, etc.).
  3. Difficulties referred to the notification stage (health, education, social services, etc.).
  4. Difficulties referred to the investigation stage (health, education, social services, etc.).
  5. Difficulties referred to the diagnostic evaluation and intervention planning stage.
  6. Difficulties referred to the development of the intervention plan stage (existent resorts to work with families, children’s fosterage and specialised treatment).
  2. Referred to case registers.
  3. Referred to the intervention programmes.
  4. Referred to decision-making procedures.
  5. Referred to co-ordination and integration of services.
  6. Referred to the exchange of information (legal procedures, programmes and co-ordination).
  7. Referred to continuous training of professionals.
  2. In relation to the concept of mistreatment.
  3. In relation to the juridical framework.
  4. In relation to procedures and programmes.
  5. In relation to the existent co-ordination.



1.1In Italy there is not a single definition of mistreatment. The professionals in this field use the following definition: “It is considered as abuse every ongoing situation, also non-voluntary ones, active or passive, in which the individual cannot state his/her natural needs, and therefore, feels overloaded”.

1.2In the juridical framework there are two generic definitions, one civil and another criminal. The Civil Law talks about “damaging behaviours towards children”. The Criminal Law talks about repeated behaviours (actions or lacks of action) that determine physical or moral suffering and damage the victim’s personality.

1.3In the health area there is another service called “Paediatrics and Women Health Service”, which is in charge of vaccinations, pregnancy, visits to children in the communities and schools (only up to secondary school), visits to the domicile and puerperal. This service acts in the area of the medical district (groups of town councils). The paediatrician compulsory has to monitor children until their 14th birthday. The health, education and social services develop a primary and secondary prevention, as well as warning about situations of risk.


1.5The institutional co-ordination (DASM) has to monitor and unify the different interventions, propositions, training courses, training promotion, but there is also another co-ordination level among the services involved in the management of problematic situations.


It is necessary to find a common language for the specialised services both the institutional and the non-institutional ones (social private services and voluntary ones). Also there needs to create a common culture about the tutelage of child rights.

The indications included in the national framework law and in the different regional regulations satisfy the needs of integration and co-ordination between services.

It is necessary to set good practice on permanent supervision, out of the services to avoid the overlapping of operators and to improve the efficiency of the protection interventions.

2.1There is an internal co-ordination at each structure of the Italian system. The team meetings permit a real exchange of information about the treatment of specific cases and about the co-ordination and integration of the different functions that are developed.

2.2The functioning of the D.A.S.M. (institutional co-ordination group) is regulated in recent protocol, agreed by all the participants. Besides, there is a co-ordination between the professionals of the different sectors through the discussion of the particular cases.


3.1There is an objective difficulty to refer and report mistreatment situations by the medical and school staff and the psychological and social services staff due to the complexity of interventions, the fear to the consequences of the report, resulting in a unforeseen measure –at least in the initial stages- affecting the familiar nucleus, and due to the resistance of the emotions of the person (that result from going through this kind of experiences). In fact, they activate defence mechanisms on the operators, which have been evidenced by the international sector.

It has also been remarked that the components of a family with problems of mistreatment do not ask for help spontaneously and normally deny these experiences, something inherent of the modalities of pathological relationships (in this cases we use the definition of “family secrets”).

3.2In the notification stage one of the main difficulties is the detection of objective elements instead of that of personal ones by the operators. There is a lack of protection for the operator that makes the report/referral, as s/he becomes identifiable by the person who mistreats when the notification goes to the judicial authority.

3.3During the investigation stage one of the main difficulties the psycho-social services have is to be at the same time obliged to intervene with specific measures to protect the child and not being able to explain these interventions to the child’s family.

That situation is determined by the secret nature of the investigation procedures with aim of avoiding the corruption of evidence during the course of the collection of evidence by the magistrate (Republic’s Prosecutor).

In our country it is possible to set in motion urgency interventions to protect mistreated children. The Civil Code permits the social services, together with the authorisation of the mayor, to remove the child from his/her home when s/he is morally or materially neglected, or brought up in bad or dangerous housing conditions or by people who is not able to provide appropriate education.

When it necessary to resort to the child removal, s/he can be lodged in an educational fostering structure. Actually, in Reggio Emilia there is a network of available families to foster children in emergency situations.

Nowadays, it is foreseen the creation of a centre to lodge children during the evaluation and investigation stages.

3.4In the diagnostic evaluation and intervention planning stage the team D.A.S.M. is trying to limit an ulterior abuse to the child, repeating the diagnostic evaluation by the different operators in the intervention, which still happens nowadays (institutional mistreatment).

3.5We do not have yet efficient strategies and projects to rehabilitate the person who mistreats. There is a lack of devices to speed up the therapeutic intervention of the abused child and to have at disposal specialised professionals within the public structures to work in long-term treatments for the victims. There is a lack of highly qualified specific training for the operators who foster the children in emergency structures.


We suggest the redaction of a framework law or convention at the European level to favour the unification of interventions to protect childhood in these countries.



  • Regarding the phenomena of mistreatment, what are the analysis and valuation you can make in your country of the confluence of the different discourses/approaches, judicial, social, scientific, professional, and administrative?
  • How is the intervention process (devaluation) of the public institutions in this sector and in your own country?
  • For Italy: Develop the Daphne commission project of social-medical ambit.

United Kingdom

  • For Italy: A question related to the Italian report, does it mean the same “tutelage” and “guardianship”?
  • For Spain: The child has to give consent at the age of 12 for what purpose?
  • If a child has been mistreated, is there an age limit/restriction to declare or not? Is there any way to collect evidence?
  • How long has to be a process to consider the removal of the child from the domicile and following fosterage? Maximum period of time.
  • For France and Spain: What kind of training do magistrates and judges receive regarding child mistreatment?
  • Is there any process to promote good practices in this area? Is there any monitorisation? System followed to assignee responsibilities, at any level, and, in case of mistakes or error, is there any one who monitors?
  • For Italy: Provincial systems to exchange experiences and good practices.
  • Processes to exchange information and unified protocols, general or specific.


  • What happens when the child retracts of an accusation?
  • For France and Spain: To deepen in the functions of the Guardian ad Litem in his/her relation with the State.
  • For the United Kingdom: When and how are the files removed from the child’s register?
  • For the United Kingdom: Indicators to evaluate the kind of mistreatment.


  • For the United Kingdom: how is it contemplated the family law in the case of police intervention to remove a child?
  • For the United Kingdom: under the power of the police, what devices are there to appeal arbitrary actions?
  • For Spain and the United Kingdom: How do you work on the link between the child and the family when there is an intervention?
  • For Italy: How do you think the evolution of the Juvenile Courts is going to be?


1-How will you develop the Daphne Commission project within the social-medical ambit?

The D.A.M.S. is gradually welcoming all the agencies working for the child’s interest, and therefore it includes all the agents who did not take part before (social private representatives, magistrates.

2-Tutelage- juridical definition: is related to the psychosocial one.

It is the whole of powers and duties attributed to a subject appointed by the judge (Tutelary Judge at the Ordinary Civil Court) for the confrontations with minors. It is not submitted to the parents’ potestas and to that of the interdicts (subject who are incapable of understanding or

It is foreseen in the articles 343 and following in the civil code and is appealed when the parents die or in other circumstances are not able to develop their duties of care, surveillance and representation of the child or administrating his/her goods.

A tutor for the child has to be appointed when the child is orphan or born from unknown parents. Also when the parents’ potestas nullity is declared or for the children declared in adoption. On the other hand, they can appoint a tutor for the child whose parents cannot accomplish appropriately their patria potestas due to incapacity or long distance or when parents are under arrest. It is also appointed when foreign children have not any parent within the state territory.

The tutor has powers-duties substantially identical to the ones of the parents. Normally the tutor is a person appointed by the parents or relatives of the child, but it also can be an entity that provides assistance (for example an operator from the social services).

If the child has an inheritance, the tutor must make an inventory of the goods. In the management of the inheritance, the tutor has to favour the child’s human development more than favouring the preservation or increase of the inheritance itself.

The Tutelary Judge controls the exercise of the tutelage. He deliberates on the tutor’s proposal about the child’s education (aims and social services) and about the management of his/her goods and gives the necessary prescriptions. The judge authorises the tutor in the economical matters; examines the returns of the management that the tutor has to present each year; s/he can exonerate, remove or suspend the tutor when s/he has neglected or abused of his/her power.

3-Age limit to accept mistreatment.

In theory there is not any limit. It is clear that there is a real concern towards mistreatment mainly when it has to do with minors, because for that reason an intervention is needed to protect them in possible confrontations.

If an offence has been committed, the time limit is determined by the expiry date to bring the action (3 months from the deed) if we talk about non-serious offences. For that reason a complaint procedure is applied (in these cases the magistrate needs a formal complaint to start the investigation and after 3 months the offence is not indictable anymore. If we talk about offences liable to prosecute (that is, without the necessity of a formal complaint) the time limit is given by the end of the offence prescription. The prescription is when a period of time has ended and it is not possible to prosecute the offender anymore: its length time depends on the seriousness of the offence and the set punishment by the criminal code.

Modality to collect evidence

Listening the child during the process

The U.N.O Convention 1989 has recognised the child’s right to be listened to during the processes whose success may affect his/her life and development: it affirms that in all the judicial or administrative processes involving a child, it has to be possible to listen the child directly or indirectly (through a competent institution), according to the national legislation procedure.

In some cases the law considers the child’s will as binding: the recognition of a son/daughter who is 16 cannot be made without his/her consent; the fosterage of the natural son/daughter within the legitimate family cannot be done without the consent of the legitimate children who are 16 or over; at different moments of the adoption process the will of the child who is at least 14 is decisive.

In other cases, on the contrary, it is foreseen the child to be compulsory listened to if s/he is already 12 years old at the process of adoption and the cases of family fosterage.

On the contrary, there is not reference to listening to the child in cases of parents’ separation. The dispositions on divorce (L. 898/1970 and L. 74/1987) establish that the judge should only listen to the child when it is strictly necessary.

It would be useful therefore to have a unitary law that foresees (although in some exceptions) to listen to the child who is already 12 years old in any judicial procedure related to him/her. Of course, this would have to be done in a modality that avoids perturbations, guilt feelings or manipulations.

The interpretation of the child’s exigency: the technical consultation.

The attention to child considering him/her as a person leads more and more often, above all by part of the of the Ordinary Court, to call a technical consultant (generally a psychologist or the people in charge of the territorial social services) to analyse the family situation and the way it is seen by the child, proposing the best solution for the child.

The Italian law (code for civil procedure) completely defines the role of the technical consultant: it is foreseen that the judge get assistance during the process by one or more consultants with particular technical competence listed in a special register. They are expected to accomplish the investigations entrusted to them and to give the necessary information and clarifications.

The analysis made by the technical consultant is illustrated in a final report, which is enclosed at the process file and taken into account for the decision. The judge’s decision, anyway, is not submitted to the consultant’s point of view: the judicial authority is free to decide in different ways, whenever the election has a basis.

The witness child

The child can be listened to at the civil or criminal process, as s/he is able to decide.

In the civil process, the law is limited to set that witnesses under legal age may be called to swear only if they are at least 14 years old.

In the criminal process, the regulation about the child testimony is on the other hand more specific and normally it protects the child’s personality.

The Italian law (code for criminal procedure) protects the child’s privacy preventing from divulging his/her identity or the photograph of the children who are witnesses or victims of an offence. The law foresees the judge ordering the child’s examination in secret to cause them as little psychological harm as possible. It establishes that debate (oral process before the criminal Court) related to sexual offences has to take place in secret when the child is under legal age. It dictates the rules for the testimony examination of the child: normally it is directed by the Court Chairman, and not directly by the prosecutors of the Public Ministry, based on questions and objections to the parties.

In the child’s examination it can be useful for the Chairman the collaboration of a relative or an expert child psychologist. The direct examination of the child only takes place if it is sure that it will not damage his/her serenity. If a party ask for it or the judge considers it as essential, the hearing can be dealt in a place different to the court, in specialised structures for attention or at the child’s personal habitat.

When there is a prosecution due to sexual offences, the examination of the child who is victim of the offence is developed, by his/her own request or his/her defendant’s through a window mirror with microphones.

4-Process times

-In the most serious cases of mistreatment or abuse: some days or weeks to obtain from the judge a decree for the immediate provisional removal of the child;

-Definitive fosterage procedure: approximately three years;

-Nullity of the patria potestas procedure: approximately three years.

The processes times depend in nay case on the severity of the situation and the child’s age. There is not a maximum time fixed by the law.

5-What has to be done to promote good practice on the ambit of mistreatment?

A parliamentary commission against paedophilia is instituted. In it there are representatives of all the parties and they organise meetings among the institutions, seminars, studies, etc. In Italy we pay attention to mistreatment, especially to the cases of sexual abuse and paedophilia.

Responsibility in infractions and mistakes