Speakers at the event on Monday, marking the two-year anniversary of The Guidelines for the Alternative Care of Children, discussed ways to further insure the implementation of the Guidelines.
The groundbreaking Guidelines seek to enhance the implementation of the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child and are used by over 40 UNICEF Country Offices and Governments to inform programming.
The Guidelines provide the first international framework for governments as well as international organizations, civil society, the private sector, and professionals that directly or indirectly are involved with organizing, providing or monitoring out-of-home care for children.
They are intended to help prevent separation, ensure adequate care, and develop child protection systems to support the most vulnerable children in environments that are most appropriate to their needs.
“Since the welcoming of the Guidelines a more supportive international environment towards family-based care has been created and a clearer recognition about the need to close large institutions has been acknowledged,” said Dr. Susan Bissell, Chief Child Protection, UNICEF.
The event was organized by the Permanent Mission of Brazil to the United Nations, in partnership with UNICEF, the Better Care Network, SOS Children’s Villages International and the NGO Committee on UNICEF.
“Providing alternative care for children away from their parents is not a one size fits all process,” said Dr. Bissell, “It should in the first place be necessary. And, secondly the care then provided should be a form of care that is the best possible option for the child concerned.”
Most children in formal alternative care are not orphans – they have one or both parents still alive. Often they are placed in care for reasons related to poverty, disability, deprivation of parental rights, single parenthood or other reasons, including gaining access to education.
Inappropriate use of care not only harms children, but societies as well. It perpetuates discrimination by promoting the idea that certain groups of children – whether orphaned, abandoned, living with disabilities, and/or from families affected by AIDS – should live apart from society. It also creates an underclass of young adults who lack the experience and skills to function effectively in the wider world, thus becoming a burden to their communities.
The Guidelines also apply in emergencies. In such crises it is particularly important that all steps are taken to ensure that children are not separated from their parents, that steps are taken urgently to reunite children with their families (using family tracing and reunification services), wherever possible, and that any cross-border movements of children are controlled.