Families at risk of separation: policy implications (Part 1)
The UN Guidelines for the Alternative Care of Children emphasise that States should seek to prevent the separation of children from their parents and families where possible. States should have national policies in place which support families and prevent children being placed unnecessarily in alternative care. More information on this can be found in the Guidelines themselves.
It is important that policies, plans and strategies for alternative care should be an integral component of national and local child protection systems.
The international experts who contributed to the writing of the handbook Moving Forward: Implementing the ‘Guidelines for the Alternative Care of Children’ listed, some suggestions on page 55 for countries to consider when developing national alternative care policy and plans to prevent the abandonment and relinquishment of children. These include:
Providing a national framework for supporting families:
- Develop national strategies on the range of measures that are needed to support families. This should include integrated approaches to: financial support; access to basic services; parenting support and specialist services;
- Develop anti-poverty strategies, including financial assistance, so that children do not need to be separated from their families due to financial reasons such as poverty, low income, unemployment and the impact of disability or ill health;
- Strengthen child protection services so that assessment processes fully consider measures which can prevent separation of families;
- Undertake research to gain a better understanding of what contributes to family separation and use this knowledge to inform policy and services;
- Increase understanding of the best approaches to providing family support and facilitate opportunities for sharing learning with those who provide support to families.
Providing services to support families:
- Ensure that there is a comprehensive assessment process for families so that support can be put in place where it is needed from different services such as health, social welfare, housing, justice, and education;
- Provide support to parents through a range of approaches including: parenting courses and education; providing accessible information; access to trained professionals who support families; home visits; groups where parents can meet together; family centres; and access to informal community support;
- Provide support for families in local communities which is available to mothers and fathers so that both parents contribute to providing a caring environment;
- Provide specialist family strengthening support to those who need it. This could include: conflict resolution and mediation; counselling; substance abuse treatment; and family case conferences;
- Provide support to families by empowering them, providing capacity development, and supporting them to utilise their own resources;
- Facilitate contact between children and their families, where a child is placed in alternative care and where this is in a child’s best interests.