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Child maltreatment - be it physical, psychological, sexual abuse, carelessness or neglect - is one of the most widespread phenomena in Europe, affecting some 55 million children. The European Union (EU) has tried to stem the phenomenon by providing Member States with some guidelines aimed at strengthening child protection systems. The PEARLS (Professionals' Empowerment Through Assisted Resilience Learning and Support) project arises from the recognition of the extent of the phenomenon and the need to activate a multidisciplinary network of professionals (medical personnel, social services, professionals in the education sector and police officers) who intercept minors and families at risk in the four developmental milestones. In particular, the program seeks to provide operators with a resilience-informed guiding model to drive actions of identification, prevention and response with minors and families at risk. The project takes place in three countries: Italy, Lithuania and Poland.

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The Resilience Research Unit (RiRes) has developed a capacity building model aimed at the aforementioned professional categories with two goals. First, it seeks to provide knowledge, tools and methodologies to intercept families at risk of maltreatment. Second, it aims at implementing a conscious helping relationship through the assumption of the role of Tutor of Resilience (ToR). The capacity building course included three work steps. First, RiRes conducted a capacity building on the ToR model, aimed at 25 professionals in the medical, judicial, educational, and social areas, followed by a period of on-field implementation of the principles of assisted resilience. Then, a second follow-up meeting occurred, aimed at analyzing weaknesses and strengths of the ToR model applied in the various professional fields, followed by a specific training of trainers (ToT) module. The third step foresaw the involvement of trained operators in cascade training cycles, targeting professional colleagues working with minors and families at risk.

The goal of RiRes within the PEARLS project is threefold:

  • Promoting the expertise of professionals involved in the ToR capacity building and their ability to promote resilience processes in minors and families who are victims / at risk of maltreatment. To this end, professionals are trained to:

    • recognize the signs of maltreatment;

    • identify parental risk factors or harmful parent-child practices;

    • strengthen children's positive potentials, internal protective factors and self-help mechanisms;

    • listen to children to increase the expression of their points of view and feelings;

    • recognize and regulate personal emotions in relationships with beneficiaries.

  • Allowing professionals, previously trained according to the ToR model, to become reference figures for the promotion and dissemination of the model, after adequate experience and a ToT capacity building module

  • Facilitating the creation and strengthening of a network of professionals who work with minors and families in order to define and disseminate good practices of assisted resilience in the identification, prevention and response to violence against children. By pursuing this goal, the project aims at overcoming sectoral fragmentation and stimulating innovative forms of partnership between public and private actors.

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Data on all forms of maltreatment highlight a widespread and pervasive problem, which negatively impacts the development and well-being of victims, exacerbating risks and vulnerabilities. Although many States have adopted Action Plans or packages of active policies aimed at preventing maltreatment, the intra-familiar nature of the phenomenon makes it difficult to detect it before it actually occurs. On the contrary, most cases of maltreatment are recognized and treated retrospectively. This "time inversion" consequently entails a greater focus on buffering vulnerability and on promoting physical and psychological healing, rather than on prevention and protection.


Working on and with resilience therefore leads to a multilevel change of perspective:

  • From a risk-centered approach to a prevention-based approach.

  • From a “caring” orientation to an empowerment method based on children’s internal and external resources.

  • From a passive conception of the child to an active image of minors who are victims of maltreatment.

  • From a fragmented approach to coordinated multi-stakeholder initiatives in the management of child maltreatment.


The expansion of resilience in children helps moderating the effects of adverse childhood experiences on development. Sources of resilience include, among others, cultural attunement, community support and the perception of having a wide set of personal resources available to cope with adverse events. Likewise, the availability of at least one stable, caring and supportive relationship between the child and a caregiver is of paramount importance. This relationship ideally begins within the family context, but it takes place in a broader context, characterized by the presence of operators, formal and informal support figures, and, in general, of all professionals who work with children.

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