The Foundation for Missing and Sexually Exploited Children, Child Focus and the NGO Bravvo, Brussels City’s prevention department, has been launched recently. Since 2012, Child Focus has been lobbying communal prevention services to allow the group to work with “Gardiens de la Paix” (non-police security agents). “Their relationship with the inhabitants of the neighbourhood and their local knowledge of the area and its inhabitants make them an important link and source of information,” said Yvan Mayeur, Brussels alderman .
CEO of Child Focus, Heidi De Pauw, distinguishes between campaigns on public display and the more discreet approach based on ‘stickers’, small pictures/photos for situations when publicity around a case could put the child at risk. “If an investigation shows that a child may be in a certain area, we can hand out these discreet ‘stickers’ in shops and among taxi drivers and the Gardiens de la Paix. We are seeing that runaways are getting younger and staying lost for even longer periods of time. In light of this, the Gardiens de la Paix can be really helpful.”
Child Focus is now working alongside Gardiens de la Paix in 23 towns and cities in Belgium, including Schaerbeek in the Brussels Region. In 2013, Child Focus took on 1,551 cases of missing children, in 1,000 of which the children had run away from home. It also deals with parental abductions and, disappearances of unaccompanied under-18s. It has, more rarely, cases of unexplained disappearances and only very occasionally, cases of criminals kidnapping. About 90% of cases have a happy end.