The UN Guidelines on Alternative Care (referred to as the Guidelines), were steered by the government of Brazil and welcomed by the UN in 2009. They promote a more diligent approach to identifying care options for children outside of care. The Guidelines complement the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) and demonstrate the value that the UN, states and the global community attaches to alternative care. Various articles in the UNCRC refer to the importance of the right to child protection and alternative care1, and the Guidelines communicate in more detail, what states and civil society must do to implement these rights.
The Guidelines are a key component of our work as we strive for a world where every child can grow up safe and protected in families, with access to quality alternative care when needed. Not all children can be cared for by their parents or wider family networks, and alternative forms of temporary care must be made available whilst permanent family homes are found for children. This is the cornerstone of what the Guidelines seek to achieve.
There is a particular focus on inclusive decision-making processes that are in the best interest of children and better decision-making within families, realising the importance of child participation in care decisions.
Family has developed a toolkit on advocacy and the Guidelines, which adapts according to the national and working context of each member. Complementary workshops combine an introduction to basic advocacy concepts or skills transfer with creating the foundation or strengthening national level advocacy strategies.
Our work so far has identified a range of issues in a range of countries, such as: the need to campaign for increased support to social workers, community leaders and volunteers who play a central role in alternative care; assessing the barriers to children’s access of social security services, such as foster care and child support grants; campaigning for support to poor and marginalised families to prevent family separation; and addressing concerns on the increase in placing children into residential institutions.
Specifically, four of our members have received the training so far, including:
- Uyisenga Ni Imanzi (UNM), Rwanda, whose workshop also included stakeholders and potential advocacy allies and targets from a particular border region in the West. The workshop helped UNM to clarify their objectives, targets, messages and desired changes. Within a week, they had held a multi-stakeholders engagement in the border town in question to address the problem of parents who leave children unaccompanied by the border when they cross over to the DRC for work. They will link this with the Guidelines as a source of evidence.
- CINDI, South Africa, who have decided to focus on ensuring a stronger role for para-professionals to reduce the burden on professional social workers. This is closely linked to implementing the legislative sections of the Guidelines. They are currently carrying out a literature review on the role of social workers and para-professionals in supporting access to foster care and child support grants. This overlaps with and will be strengthened by their upcoming social protection research.
Trainings were also held with JUCONI, Mexico, and Muhammadiyah, Indonesia. We are currently working on improving the programme, creating a more comprehensive link between advocacy capacity-building and strategic planning. With an even more context/member-driven toolkit, we will strengthen our national and regional level advocacy. We will continue to promote the Guidelines for Alternative Care and consequently improve the lives of children across the world.