Two teenage boys with sweatshirts are sitting at a table with a woman and a man. They all are smiling. They have books in front of them on the table and pencils or pens in their hands.
Anna Lisa and Fabio Mantello who have fostered two 13 year old unaccompanied children, Amara and Aly, who are unrelated but met on their journey and arrived in Sicily together.

What makes a care setting or a particular care placement 'suitable'? (Part 2)

The ‘suitability’ principle also requires a number of different conditions to be met by the organisations providing alternative care. These include:

  • Organisations that organise and provide alternative care should have been approved, registered, authorised, and inspected by an authorised national body in accordance with national standards laid down by the State that meet international guidance
  • All care settings must meet State determined standards in terms of, for example, conditions, careful recruitment and training of staff and carers, the quality of individual care offered, protection, financing, and access to services
  • To ensure compliance with standards, the State should have in place a mechanism and process for regulating care providers through established criteria, and for carrying out regular inspections to monitor compliance. When dealing with huge inflows of unaccompanied and separated children, not all States will have the immediate capacity to regulate the quality of care. This means partner organisations - national and international NGOs, and other international agencies - must ensure these same standards are adhered to within their operations in support of the State system and services for unaccompanied and separated children
  • Standards should be in place for professional conduct – including that of carers and volunteers. As an example, you can see the policy for volunteers issued by the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent here

The ‘suitability’ principle

As well as standards of care, the ‘suitability principle’ also means that a range of appropriate care settings should be in place in a country, so that a real choice of care placement exists for all children – including national and unaccompanied and separated children. This should include placements that offer emergency, short-term, and longer-term care.

Unaccompanied and separated children may have different preferences about where they would like to stay. Some may prefer to live in family-based care such as with a foster family, and if the right ‘fit’ is found, they may thrive in this environment. Others might see this type of family-based setting as being difficult to adjust to. Others still may prefer to live in family-like care such as a small-group home with children of a similar age. Some children may wish to be placed with families from their own cultural background. Others might prefer to live with local families who they feel might, for example, better help them with social integration.

The possibility of a successful care placement depends greatly on how much it matches the child’s circumstances, needs, and wishes, as much as possible. If the placement they prefer is not available, or is considered not to be in their best interest, it is important to explain these reasons so that a child is more likely to accept an alternative placement. This is relevant in situations where a child is in transit, and when they have arrived in a destination country. This also highlights the importance of the role of case management and the assessment and case planning process that will guide you towards the most suitable choice of care setting for a child.

On the next course pages we are going to explore some specific examples of appropriate care settings.

For further information on ways to apply the ‘suitability’ principle and appropriate care you can go to page 71 of the handbook Moving Forward: Implementing the ‘Guidelines for the Alternative Care of Children’.

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This article is from the free online course:

Caring for Children Moving Alone: Protecting Unaccompanied and Separated Children

University of Strathclyde