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Guiding principles (Part 2)

Guiding principles - Safeguarding children and Best interest of the child

Safeguarding children

In this video you will meet a group of children and young people who arrived in Mexico unaccompanied. They live in a small group home – Albergue Colibrí. They are playing a game developed by UNICEF that helps teach unaccompanied and separated children and young people ways to protect themselves. We will also hear from Miguel Alberto de la Cruz Solán. Miguel is a psychologist working at Albergue Colibrí. He explains the importance of using such resources. Please note that we have obscured the identity of some of the young people for protection reasons.

Using children friendly tools and resources like this are helpful for discussing important but sometimes difficult topics with children and young people in an interesting and engaging way. You can download a copy of the game you see being used in the video, and other resources developed by the UNICEF office in Mexico here. You can also see a short video in Spanish that shows UNICEF staff using these games to support psychosocial activities with migrant children who are in transit in Mexico here. In Week 5 of the course you will also have the opportunity to see another short film about the use of child friendly materials to help children understand the risks of traveling alone.

Many unaccompanied and separated children have suffered abuse on their journey or maybe even before leaving home. There may be concerns for their physical and/or mental health as a result of their experiences. It is important to understand their experience and needs so we can respond appropriately. This is why Care and Protection assessments and Case Plans are so important. It is also a priority to ensure that children are not subjected to any further abuse.

It is the responsibility of organisations tasked with the care and protection of children to have a set of procedures that guarantee their safety and protection. These guidelines are often called safeguarding procedures or, child protection procedures. They should clearly state all the steps that will be taken to protect children from harm and to respond to any concerns about the safety of a child raised by a member of staff, volunteers or, anyone else working within or outside the organisation.

This includes the obligation to inform someone in authority – perhaps a supervisor or senior manager or the police – if you suspect a child is at risk from someone either within or, outside, your own organisation. The procedure should outline steps to be taken to report and respond to these concerns.

As an example of information on ways of keeping children safe, you can take a look at Standards for Child Protection, issued by the Keeping Children Safe Coalition in 2006. The Coalition has published general advice on procedures and methods.

Best interests of the child

As explained in Week 1 of the course, according to Article 3.1 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child each child has the right to have their best interests taken into account as ‘a primary consideration’ when decisions affecting them are made by ‘public or private social welfare institutions, courts of law, administrative authorities or legislative bodies’. This means what is best for the child should be a primary basis for all decisions and actions taken, and for the way in which we interact with and respond to children.

There is no international definition of what constitutes a child’s ‘best interests’ – although in some countries laws have been developed that contain specific factors, decision-makers must take into account when assessing what is in a child’s best interests.

According to the Committee on the Rights of the Child in the CRC General Comment No. 14 best interests ‘should be adjusted and defined on an individual basis, according to the specific situation of the child or children concerned, taking into consideration their personal context, situation and needs’.

More specifically, in a report of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the ‘child’s best interests should always take precedence over migration management objectives or other administrative considerations. Children in the context of migration must be treated first and foremost as children’.

Helping us think about what this principle means in practice, the UNHCR Best Interest Determination (BID) process suggests there may be various factors we need to take into account when assessing what is in the best interests of an individual child. For example, the UNHCR BID process considers that the importance given to each of the following factors may vary according to the individual child and their circumstances:

  • The safety of the child including exposure or likely exposure to severe harm which might outweigh other factors.
  • The child’s relationships with family members and others close to him or her – both before a child first moved away from home or out of their country and if relevant, whilst in alternative care.
  • The needs of the child concerning their personal development and identity.

Remember, what is best for one child will not necessarily be best for another so we must respond to each child individually.

For further information on best interests of the child as well as safeguarding practices please look at the ‘See Also’ section below. You will also find additional tools and reports developed by UNICEF Mexico

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Caring for Children Moving Alone: Protecting Unaccompanied and Separated Children

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