Committee on Rights of Child concludes day of general discussion on alternative care

OHCHR

The Committee on the Rights of the Child today held the second of two segments of a Day of General Discussion on children’s rights and alternative care.

Committee Members Rinchen Chophel and Velina Todorova presented conclusions of working groups on delivering appropriate quality alternative care services, and on transforming the system towards family and community-based care, respectively.

During the plenary session on looking to the future to identify key changes needed to achieve the Committee’s vision for children’s care, Committee members said it was important to tailor interventions to meet the needs of children.  To children, quality of care was not just a question of material well-being, it was also noted.  A member of the Committee’s Youth Advisory Team urged the Committee to bear in mind the stories told by children during the Day of General Discussion.

In closing remarks, Committee Member Ann Skelton noted that while “money can’t buy you love”, money could buy the possibility for children to remain in their families, urging decision-makers to “put the money where the love is”.  Peter McDermott, Chief Executive Officer of Lumos, said the involvement of children with lived experience with the Day of General Discussion had been notable.  A member of the Committee’s Youth Advisory Team, Valeriia from Ukraine, called on to all present to make the world a better place for all children. 

Documentation on the Day of General Discussion is available on the Child Rights Committee’s dedicated webpage, notably a concept note as well as a Programme of Work.

The Committee will next meet at 10:00 a.m. on Monday, September 20 to hold its dialogue with Switzerland. 

Presentation by rapporteurs of the working group conclusions 

RINCHEN CHOPHEL, Member of the Committee, presented the conclusions of the working group which had focused on the issue of delivering appropriate quality alternative care services.  Quality care services were needed for children to become independent and reach their full potential.  Children should be involved in the decision-making processes.  Children with disabilities also needed to establish healthy relationships with families, rather than institutions.  Children in alternative care, when asked, often wanted to be reunited with their families, and did not know why they had been sent to alternative care in the first place.  Children simply wanted security. 

VELINA TODOROVA, Vice Chair of the Committee, presented the conclusions of the working group which had focused on the issue of transforming the system towards family and community-based care.  Care reform should target keeping families together, she said, adding that all childcare reforms should be based on human rights, and no reform should deny access due to disability.  There was no one solution for all, as children were a diverse group.  Member States had presented findings, including noting that countries should not invest in orphanages abroad.  The importance of data was also underscored; data about children who had left care was also important for care reforms. 

Plenary 

MIKIKO OTANI, Chair of the Committee, said the following segment of the meeting would be future-looking, and focus on drawing lessons from each of the working groups to identify key changes needed to achieve our vision for children’s care, and invited speakers to present the findings of their respective working groups. 

BRAGI GUDBRANDSSON, Member of the Committee, presented the perspective of the working group which had had as its theme ensuring all children grow up in safe and nurturing families: Strengthening families and communities to prevent separation (with lessons from the pandemic).  Early identification and early intervention was important, as was the importance of tailored intervention. 

JOSÉ ANGEL RODRÍGUEZ REYES, Member of the Committee, presented the working group which had discussed the theme of addressing the care needs and rights of children who were separated, unaccompanied or without care.  Adolescent and young speakers had told the group how important family reunification was, as was the need for support for families, no matter what type of family was in question.  Institutions did not replace families, and children came out of institutions without people to accompany them in their transition process to adulthood. 

BENOIT VAN KEIRSBILCK, Member of the Committee, spoke about the findings of the working group which had addressed access to justice and accountability for children and young people in alternative care, their families, and adults who grew up in care.   He noted that the word which came across the most during the meeting was listen, and how crucial it was to listen to children, and to actually hear them.  Justice systems should be fitted to children’s needs.  Children participating in the working group had expressed the view that they did not want other children to have to endure their struggles. 

RINCHEN CHOPHEL, Member of the Committee, presented the perspectives of the working group which had focused on the issue of delivering appropriate quality alternative care services.  To children, quality of care was not just a question of material well-being, he said.  State parties should be held accountable, and should be encouraged to assess alternate care which was effective in addressing country-specific needs.  Quality of care should take into account the child’s perspective.  Regional fora could discuss the calls for change generated by the present dialogue.

VELINA TODOROVA, Vice Chair of the Committee, spoke for the working group which had focused on the issue of transforming the system towards family and community-based care.  There were new challenges and threats to children came from unregulated foreign funding to residential facilities, she said.  That undermined States’ efforts at reform.  Care reform should be inclusive, and address specific situations of families and children–care models should be “tailor made”, she underscored.  It was essential to accurately collect data on children’s personal history in order to inform care reform. 

CONNER, Member of the Youth Advisory Team of the Committee, said that the children’s survey presented at the beginning of the Day of General Discussion could be used to identify key changes needed to achieve the Committee’s vision for children’s care.  He also expressed hope that member States might find tangible mechanisms for implementing the Convention, and making sure that it protected children.  He urged the Committee to bear in mind the stories told by children during the Day of General Discussion. 

Closing Remarks

ANN MARIE SKELTON, Member of the Committee, noted that while “money can’t buy you love”, money could buy the possibility for children to remain in their families, the support families needed, it could strengthen communities, and buy better alternative care options.  She urged decision-makers to “put the money where the love is”.  State parties should move the money from institutions to families.  The Committee had a strong interest in ensuring access to justice for children.  Children who had suffered violations of their rights could bring their case directly to the Committee.        

VALERIIA, Member of the Youth Advisory Team of the Committee, spoke to the Committee through a representative of Save the Children.  Expressing regret that she was not able to join the Committee in person, she thanked everyone present at the Day of General Discussion for their courage in representing children.  She pointed out that the present day was only the beginning of a journey for making a sustainable change.  She called on to all present to make the world a better place for all children. 

PETER McDERMOTT, Chief Executive Officer, Lumos, spoke on behalf of the civil society organizations committee which had supported the Committee as it put together its Day of General Discussion.  The involvement of children with lived experience had been notable, he said.  It was important to continue to reflect on what needed to be done differently as a result of insights from the discussion.  Family separation should be prevented, but where it could not be avoided, children had to receive care that respected their needs and rights.

Link: https://www.ungeneva.org/en/news-media/meeting-summary/2021/09/le-comite-des-droits-de-lenfant-conclut-son-debat-general-sur

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