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The UN Guidelines for the Alternative Care of Children

An Introduction to the UN Guidelines for the Alternative Care of Children
Father holding his sons hand
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The UN Guidelines for the Alternative Care of Children is a non-binding international instrument. It is intended to inform the approach to alternative care for children. As it does not put any binding obligations on the part of States or any other concerned parties, provisions of the Guidelines are formulated using the term “should” rather than “shall” or “must”, except when existing fully-fledged rights, notably those in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), are being referred to.

The Guidelines commence by stating its’ overall purpose which is to ‘enhance the implementation’ of the CRC and ‘relevant provisions of other international instruments’ regarding the protection and well-being of children who are deprived of parental care or who are at risk of being so. The Guidelines have been designed to ‘assist and encourage’ governments to optimise the implementation of the treaty and to ‘guide policies, decisions and activities’ at all levels and in both the public and private sectors. In this way, it is designed for the use of all sectors ‘directly or indirectly concerned with issues relating to alternative care’.

It is stated in the Guidelines that it seeks in particular:

(a) To support efforts to keep children in, or return them to, the care of their family or, failing this, to find another appropriate and permanent solution, including adoption and kafala of Islamic law;

(b) To ensure that, while such permanent solutions are being sought, or in cases where they are not possible or are not in the best interests of the child, the most suitable forms of alternative care are identified and provided, under conditions that promotes the child’s full and harmonious development;

(c) To assist and encourage Governments to better implement their responsibilities and obligations in these respects, bearing in mind the economic, social and cultural conditions prevailing in each State; and

(d) To guide policies, decisions, and activities of all concerned with social protection and child welfare in both the public and the private sectors, including civil society.

You can find out more about the purpose of the Guidelines in Chapter Two of the handbook Moving Forward: Implementing the ‘Guidelines for the Alternative Care of Children’.

On 18th December 2019, a very important new United Nations General Assembly Resolution on the ‘Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Children’ was unanimously adopted by all countries. The Resolution builds on the UN Guidelines for the Alternative Care of Children and focusses specifically on children at risk of losing parental care and children without parental care. We would urge you to read this important new Resolution.
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Getting Care Right for All Children: Implementing the UN Guidelines for the Alternative Care of Children

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