The importance of children’s full and meaningful participation
- We may not be able to interact with children directly and so we might have to explore ways to consult with them by phone or other remote ways of communicating – remember we also discussed the importance of safely meeting children face to face in high priority cases
- We may not be able to interact with children for as long as we usually want to
- We may have to adapt the way we share information with them so they are able form their own opinions and ideas.
- Do everything you can to fully facilitate the participation of a child and empower them to express their views and influence decisions without them feeling pressured or constrained
- Make sure you have the informed consent of the child to conduct any meetings and if necessary, share the information they provide – whether meeting face to face or remotely. Get informed consent from parents or other legal or customary caregivers. (Please see course step 25 for further information about consent and assent)
- Not just listen to the views of a child but truly take them into full consideration
- Use a child-friendly manner that allows a child to express themselves. This may be particularly challenging during the COVID-19 pandemic if you are not conducting face to face meetings. But still think about ways you might use drawing and other ways a child can think about expressing themselves about their circumstances, wishes and needs
- Regularly check that the child understood what you said. It is also important you check with the child to make sure you understood what the child told you
- Identify the most appropriate way to communicate with children with disabilities – particularly children with visual, hearing or intellectual disabilities. They may need additional supports, such as sign language interpretation, communication boards or the presence of a support person, where appropriate
- Be sensitive – children at risk may have lived through disturbing events and have difficulties in expressing themselves. It is recommended to involve experts – such as psycho-social professionals – if necessary
- Be aware how social norms – for instance gender roles and gender identity, perceptions about disability – might influence the way children express themselves. Think how this can affect talking about issues and experiences that were painful, sensitive or they consider embarrassing
- Provide children with information in a language and form they can understand, and which is suitable for their age and capacity
- Be honest with children, do not raise their expectations and do not promise things that are unattainable. This can create serious feelings of mistrust, of being let down, and may harm your relationship with a child
- Explain that others will take a role in making decisions they think are in the child’s best interests based on their professional skills and experience. Explain any decisions with appropriate sensitivity, care and empathy and the reasons why those decisions have been taken with full consideration of their best interests
- If using an interpreter, make sure they are of a calibre to translate everything accurately. Make sure they are trained in child friendly and sensitive communication, have experience working with children, and of the appropriate gender.
COVID-19: Adapting Child Protection Case Management
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