Why were the UN Guidelines for the Alternative Care of Children developed?
Jean Zermatten, a former Chairperson of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, has written about the situation of children deprived of parental care being of constant and serious concern to the Committee. You can find what he wrote in the introduction to the handbook Moving Forward: Implementing the ‘Guidelines for the Alternative Care of Children’.
These concerns arose, for instance, from the findings of the Committee when reviewing the compliance of individual States with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. These findings included issues related to:
- The large numbers of children coming into alternative care in many countries, too often because of their family’s material poverty;
- The low priority given to responding appropriately to these children especially when their vulnerability increased as a result of losing parental care;
- The condition under which care is provided.
It was recognised that, to respond to the many different reasons children find themselves in alternative care, there needs to be a wide range of measures available that would address them.
Whilst the Convention on the Rights of the Child sets out basic State obligations in that regard, it does not provide significant guidance on how to meet them. This is why, in 2004, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child gave whole-hearted support to the idea of developing the UN Guidelines for the Alternative Care of Children that would gain the approval of the international community at the highest level. UNICEF, a range of different governments, international non-governmental organisations (NGOs), individual experts and young people with experience of alternative care worked together to complete the text of the Guidelines.
In 2009, the acceptance of the Guidelines by the UN General Assembly signalled all governments’ general agreement that the ‘orientations for policy and practice’ they set out are both well-founded and desirable.
For further information about why, and how, the UN Guidelines were developed, we suggest you look at Chapter Two of the handbook Moving Forward : Implementing the ‘Guidelines for the Alternative Care of Children’.