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Gatekeeping and children’s right to participate

Gatekeeping and the importance of children's participation by Florence Martin and Delia Pop
My name is Gabrielle and I come from France. I think that a child should indeed be involved and participate in all stages of the care process regardless of their age. They should be heard and have the feeling of being listened to. This would let them realise that they have been and that decisions are not being made without their perspective being taken into account.
Depending on the context it should be explained to them how they can participate and how their suggestions and comments will be received.
Then the child’s or young person’s - children of all ages - participation can be of various significance.
For example, while preparing for a placement, being placed in care, in foster care or another placement - or the end of a placement - or whatever term we use - it is important, more than ever, that the young people participate and that is an active participation as they will soon, from the age of maturity, be all by themselves and they should be independent and responsible. For me, child participation must be progressive and can take various forms depending on the context and the child’s personal history. It must be individualised.
My name is Fabio, I’m 21 and I come from Italy. I’d say that participation to me is first of all a right - and what should be done in my opinion to transform this simple principle into a value, so that it can be used in each and every case - both in residential and foster care Participation should be a normal thing in practice. It should not be studied anymore but should be implemented. Like we have done so far for other rights. There are levels of participation. It has increased tremendously from the time that I was a child to a child who is a child now. So there is a huge difference at the participation– levels have changed.
If you do not ask the children, no matter what their age is, I don’t think you can really, really understand what are their needs and you really cannot give them the support that they need if you do not include them in the decision making process. It’s very important that children are consulted of issues which concern them. Children and their families do have a role to play because they know what is best for their individual situation. Professionals like us should take their views first before proceeding with any solution. I think it’s very important because we can’t make the decision on their behalf because we don’t know their needs.
So they have to tell us what their needs are so that we can plan together and help them. Because if we will make their own decision, we can’t meet their needs. You can think like, for example, on my own behalf, what I think as an elder is different from a child. So we have to involve them so that we get their views and move forward together. I definitely think that children should be participating in decisions that affect their lives. And especially, I think that they should be involved in more steering group committees at an international level so that they can be making decisions for global initiatives as well as national initiatives. I think participation in decision making is absolutely vital.
As Gandhi once said, what you do for me, without me, is against me. A child should be part of all decision making process. As soon as he understands any little thing about himself, about the environment, he’s growing up. Depending on his development needs and development level, he or she should be participating. And this is the only way to enable, to empower children.

Children’s right to participate in decisions that affect them is central to making effective and appropriate decisions about their care.

Effective gatekeeping therefore, is not only important for realising children’s right to adequate care, but also their right to participation (Article 12 of the UNCRC. This involves the development of clear and accessible tools to inform children and young people of their rights in the context of care decisions and the use of mechanisms that allow for their meaningful participation throughout the process, from assessment of needs to review and determination of different care options and placement decisions.

In this video, we hear from two young people who have experienced alternative care telling us why they think participation is important.

We also hear from care practitioners drawn from different countries of the world who, whilst attending an alternative care conference in Geneva, were asked the question: ‘Do you think it is important that children and young people participate in decisions that affect their lives?’

This article is from the free online

Getting Care Right for All Children: Implementing the UN Guidelines for the Alternative Care of Children

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