United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child’s Day of General Discussion on Children’s Rights and Alternative Care:
At Hope and Homes for Children, we know that Care reform is possible and achievable. But for care reform to truly flourish at scale, it requires greater coherence, collaboration and to be centre-stage in global initiatives to promote human rights, address poverty and build community resilience.
The Day of General Discussion represents an opportunity for the UN CRC Committee to send a clear message of renewed urgency to support children in their families and communities, given the challenges exposed by the Covid-19 pandemic. As a follow-up of the DGD, we are calling on the UN to make recommendations to countries with one voice. It is a chance to offer unified, contemporary, and compelling guidance on the ultimate goal of care reform and the best process to achieve it.
Read a summary of our recommendations below. Or go straight to our full written submission here: ‘Children’s Rights and Alternative Care’.
The need for enhanced focus, coherence and collaboration.
Over the last decade, there has been significant international progress towards care reform, as well as an evolving understanding of its importance in delivering the ‘leave no one behind’ commitments in the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). At Hope and Homes for Children, we know from our work on four continents, and from the work of many other organisations and governments around the world, that care reform is achievable.
Alongside over 250 civil society organisations worldwide and UNICEF, Hope and Homes for Children contributed to draft a set of Key Recommendations ahead of the 2019 UN General Assembly (UNGA) Resolution on the Rights of the Child focusing on children without parental care, which detailed civil society’s ambitious agenda for care reform.
However, despite progress, in many countries implementation of care reform still lags behind while the COVID-19 pandemic risks turning the clock back. What’s more, the consequences of the pandemic have had devastating effects on children and families, exacerbating existing weaknesses in states care and child protections systems.
Globally, there is also an urgent need for enhanced coherence and collaboration to better define and articulate the ultimate goal of care reform as well as the practical steps needed to transform care systems and deliver the rights of children in alternative care. There is to secure existing progress and effectively support marginalised children around the world.
The role of the Day of General Discussion
The Day of General Discussion represents an opportunity for the UN CRC Committee to send a clear message about supporting children in their families and communities, promoting the transformation of national care systems and phasing out of institutionalisation. We are calling on the UN human rights mechanisms to speak with one voice, offering states unified, compelling guidance on care reform and the best process to achieve it. Now especially there is a renewed urgency, given the challenges exposed by the pandemic.
Whilst it is increasingly clear that successful care reform also unlocks some of the SDGs considered hardest to progress, the issue remains side-lined in global initiatives intended to tackle poverty, grow economies and build community resilience – including as a response to the pandemic. By asserting the importance of this issue, the DGD on Child Rights and Alternative Care can also be a stepping stone towards including care reform in future global initiatives.
The pandemic is leading many to think creatively about how we should rebuild our societies in a way which promotes equity and places higher value on care, protection and public service. No child should be left behind in this process. The planning for the recovery from COVID-19 should be a catalyst to build and fund stronger child protection and care systems.
Here are our key recommendations for governments, stakeholders, donors and UN Treaty Bodies:
- Transformation plans: Recognise institutionalisation as a harmful practice that incentivises the separation of children from their parents, caregivers and communities. And develop national action plans and regional or global initiatives for the transformation of care systems.
- Reunite or build new families: Ensure that all children currently institutionalised are reunited with existing family or found safe and nurturing families.
- Root causes: Tackle the root causes of child-family separation by investing in support to families in need or struggling economically, the development of community-based services, and promote national adoption, foster care and community support structures.
- Fund transformation to family-based care: Ensure and pledge that no national or international funding mechanisms can be used to support institutionalisation. Use recovery and reconstruction resources to promote a transformation of the child protection and care system to one that supports families, not institutions.
- Child participation: Ensure meaningful participation of children without parental or family care and care-leavers in decisions or policies pertaining to their care.
You can also read three submissions that we have been directly involved in shaping here: