8. September 2020

Children arrive at crisis centres with nothing

When children walk into a crisis centre or women’s shelter with their mother, they often arrive with only the clothes on their back. Sixty-seven per cent of Danish crisis centres find that children often or very often arrive without their belongings. This is according to a study conducted by Epinion on behalf of The Mary Foundation, which distributes backpacks to children in crisis centres.

When children end up at a crisis centre with their mother, the reality is that they have sometimes been forced to leave their home so urgently that they do not manage to take anything with them other than the clothes on their back.  They leave without any of their toys or personal items.

That’s why The Mary Foundation has joined forces with LOKK (National Organisation of Crisis Centres for Women) and Ole Kirk’s Foundation to hand out more than 28,000 backpacks to children at crisis centres since 2008. The backpacks contain toiletries, clothes, toys, a teddy bear and a diary for the older children.

In a recent evaluation, The Mary Foundation asked relevant crisis centres about their use of the backpacks. This revealed that 67 per cent of crisis centres find that children often or very often arrive without their belongings. The study also showed that the backpacks are to a large extent used by crisis centre staff as a way to connect with the children and start a conversation about why they now live in a crisis centre. Eighty-six per cent reported that they use the backpacks or items from them to build trust with the children.

“The primary objective of the backpack and its contents is to cover the children’s practical needs, since so many of them arrive at crisis centres with nothing. But the backpack also helps support the important work the crisis centres carry out in helping the children to process their feelings, experiences and traumas. We are pleased that the evaluation shows the backpacks are well suited for this purpose,”

said Helle Østergaard, Director of The Mary Foundation.

A new batch of backpacks is currently being distributed.

The plan was for Her Royal Highness Crown Princess Mary and The Mary Foundation to participate in packing the 2,400 new backpacks, but this has not been possible due to the coronavirus pandemic. The backpacks have still been packed, of course, and our now being sent out across Denmark.

“Experiencing domestic violence and moving to a crisis centre is always a terrible ordeal for children. Receiving a smart backpack with practical and exciting things obviously sparks the children’s enthusiasm. Using the backpack as a tool for dialogue is an added bonus. And the backpack is also a strong signal to the children that no one should live with violence and that it’s never their fault,” said Kamilla Bjørn Drøidal, Executive Secretary of LOKK (National Organisation of Crisis Centres for Women).

Facts about the backpacks

  • Since 2008, The Mary Foundation, LOKK and Ole Kirk’s Foundation have packed and distributed more than 28,000 backpacks to children moving into crisis centres with their mothers in Denmark, Greenland and the Faroe Islands.
  • In the spring of 2020, we distributed our remaining stock of backpacks to crisis centres after emergency places were established in response to the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.
  • In August alone, we packed and distributed 2,400 backpacks.
  • Every year in Denmark, almost 2,000 children are forced to move to crisis centres with their mothers.
  • Witnessing and growing up in a home marred by violence is just as damaging to a child as being subjected to physical violence themselves. Violence can have major consequences for children and lead to long-term effects in adulthood. That’s why children need to process their experiences from home when they move to a crisis centre with their mother.

Authored by:

Timian Bille Bach Landgraff

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