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Second anniversary of Guidelines for the Alternative Care of Children

Second anniversary of Guidelines for the Alternative Care of Children

In 2009, the UN formally adopted the groundbreaking Guidelines for the Alternative Care of Children, which SOS Children helped to develop. This week, speakers at a high-level meeting in New York have urged the international community to continue to improve the quality and standard of care for vulnerable children.

SOS Children were a leading organisation in supporting the development of the Guidelines and promoting them towards adoption. The Guidelines aim 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 worldwide.

The Guidelines provide the first international framework for governments as well as international organisations, civil society, the private sector, and professionals that directly or indirectly are involved with organising, 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.

The event this week was organised by the Permanent Mission of Brazil to the United Nations, in partnership with UNICEF, the Better Care Network, SOS Children International and the NGO Committee on UNICEF.   

The delegates discussed ways to further insure the implementation of the Guidelines. Dr. Susan Bissell, Chief Child Protection at UNICEF said that “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.”

 “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 a variety of reasons related to poverty, disability, deprivation of parental rights, single parenthood or other reasons, including gaining access to education.

The Guidelines stress first and foremost that all efforts should be made to strengthen vulnerable families with a view to keeping the child with his or her family. If such strengthening efforts are not successful or not appropriate then, only in cases of necessity, should children be placed in alternative care. The Guidelines discuss a range of options including foster care, other family-based environments, or small group residential care, from which the option chosen should meet the best interests of the children in each specific case.

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.

SOS Children work with international institutions such as the UN to advocate for children’s rights worldwide. Read more about the Guidelines for the Alternative Care of Children.