FOCUS, a European Union co-funded project (2020 – 2022), centred on promoting and supporting the implementation of EU legal obligations to carry out individual assessments of the needs and circumstances of children involved in criminal proceedings, whether as victims, suspects or accused. These obligations are set out in three EU Directives concerning combating sexual abuse and exploitation of children, victims’ rights and procedural safeguards respectively, as transposed into, and sometimes complemented by, national law.
The ultimate objective of the project is to support child-centred justice, and ensure that children in contact with the law, as victims and as offenders, receive individualised care, and have access to personalised support and responses, including through restorative justice processes. FOCUS partners see the implementation of robust and multidisciplinary individual assessment process as a gateway into child centred justice. FOCUS sought in particular to:
- Make systematic individual assessment practices of more common application with children involved in criminal proceedings.
- Build the knowledge, capacities and skills of youth justice professionals, about standards, tools, procedures and process in the use of multidisciplinary individual assessment with children in criminal proceedings.
- Build the knowledge and capacities of children about their rights in the criminal justice system and empower children to be agents of change and advocates for child-centred justice.
The project facilitated learning through international mutual exchange of practices between the five target countries: Bulgaria, Greece, Serbia, Romania and The Netherlands. FOCUS partners identified gaps between theory and practice on the implementation of individual assessment practices, gaps which were addressed by providing professionals with new, practical tools and resources to apply and systematize individual assessment process and practice in their countries.
The main FOCUS tools and resources developed are:
- The FOCUS Standards: provide guiding principles for undertaking individual assessments for children involved in criminal proceedings, including respect for the Charter of Fundamental Rights and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (tool)
- The FOCUS Standards self-reflection tool: accompanies the FOCUS Standards and supports stakeholders and professionals in reflecting on how the Standards are fulfilled or can be better fulfilled in their practice or in their national systems (tool).
- The FOCUS Mapping Tool: helps stakeholders review the state of development of individual assessment processes (tool)
- The FOCUS reference table for progress helps stakeholders identify actions to achieve improvements (tool)
- The FOCUS pilot planning tool: helps stakeholders plan pilot activities to improve individual assessment processes (tool)
- The FOCUS research summary on individual assessment with children in Europe (resources)
- International human rights standards applicable on individual assessment practices (resources)
- Q&A Individual assessment – a gateway to a child centered justice: key concepts and frequently asked questions (resources).
 EU Directive 2011/92 on combating the sexual abuse and sexual exploitation of children and child pornography.
 EU Directive 2012/29 establishing minimum standards on the rights, support and protection of victims of crime.
 EU Directive 2016/800 on procedural safeguards for children who are suspects or accused persons in criminal proceedings.