December 2019
Issue on the United Nations General Assembly
“There is a growing recognition among Member States of the need to act. Several countries have taken steps to strengthen national laws, and have adopted care reform strategies focused on prevention, taking children out of institutions, and reunifying separated families. But we must do more. The Report [of the Secretary General on the Rights of the Child] calls for the end of institutionalizing children, investing more in child protection and welfare, social services, and family-based care in the community, and improving data collection and reporting systems to know exactly where to target our efforts."

- Charlotte Petri Gornitzka, UNICEF Deputy Executive Director The Third Committee of the 74th Session of the General Assembly


Today, on the 18th of December 2019, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) adopted by consensus its first ever Resolution on the Rights of the Child focused on the theme of children without parental care . For the first time in its history, the UNGA called on its 193 Member States to take concrete action to implement the international commitments they have made to protect the human rights of children without parental care, including children in alternative care, under the Convention on the Rights of the Child , the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and international guidelines, such as the Guidelines for the Alternative Care of Children . Particularly groundbreaking in this resolution, the UNGA:

  • Expresses deep concern on the potential harm of institutionalization and institutional care to children’s growth and development, urging States to take action to progressively replace it with quality alternative care, including by redirecting resources to family and community-based care services;

  • Urges States to adopt and enforce laws, policies, services and programmes, and budget allocations to address the root causes of unnecessary separation and ensure children are cared for effectively by their own families and communities, including through child and gender sensitive social protection systems, targeted cash transfers, access to basic services, high quality education and affordable and accessible child care and health services;

  • Calls on States to develop and strengthen inclusive and responsive family-oriented policies and programmes for poverty reduction, also designed to promote and strengthen parents’ ability to care for their children, and to confront family poverty and social exclusion;

  • Reaffirms that every effort should be directed to enabling children to remain or swiftly return to the care of their parents or when appropriate close family members, and that where alternative care is necessary, family and community-based care should be promoted over placement in institutions;

  • Urges States to strengthen child welfare and child protection systems and improve care reforms efforts, including increased multisectoral collaboration with health, education and justice sectors, and active coordination among all relevant authorities, improved cross-border systems and improved capacity building;

  • Calls on States to strengthen the regulatory system and put in place rigorous ‘gatekeeping” procedures to ensure alternative care is only used when clearly necessary and in an appropriate manner, and that registration, licensing and other oversight mechanisms are in place to guarantee the quality of alternative care and that children’s placements are regularly reviewed;

  • Urges States to ensure the availability of a comprehensive range of quality accessible and disability-inclusive alternative care options in line with the CRC, CRPD, and taking into account the Guidelines; prioritising quality alternative care options over institutionalization, including by adopting policies, strategies and comprehensive plans of action, and implementing relevant reforms; 

  • Underlines the importance of improving data collection, information management and reporting systems related to children without parental care in all settings and situations in order to close existing data gaps and develop global and national baselines;

  • Reaffirms States’ responsibility to protect the human rights of children in alternative care, including by protecting them against all forms of violence and abuse in all care settings;

  • Calls on States to take appropriate measures to prevent and combat the trafficking and exploitation of children in care facilities, and to take appropriate measures to prevent and address the harms related to orphanage volunteering, including in the context of tourism.

The resolution also contains important language reinforcing international commitments made on specific aspects of children’s care, in particular, the UNGA:

  • Reaffirms that States must ensure children with disabilities have equal rights with respect to family life, including by providing early and comprehensive information, services and support to them and their families to prevent concealment, abandonment, neglect, discrimination and segregation, and by undertaking every effort, where the immediate family is unable to care for a child with disabilities, to provide quality alternative care within the wider family, and failing that, within the community in a family setting;

  • Calls on States to ensure adolescents and young people leaving alternative care receive appropriate support in preparing for the transition to independent living, including through access to employment, education, training, housing and psychological support;

  • Reaffirms the importance of adequate and systematic training for all professional groups and staffs working with and for children, including children without parental care;

  • Underlines the particular need for multi-disciplinary collaboration and coordination between a range of actors and sectors, including across health, education and justice to ensure all decisions, initiatives and approaches related to children without parental care are made on a case by case basis through a judicial, administrative or other adequate and recognized procedure and by suitably qualified professionals, taking into account the best interests of the child;

  • Calls on States to take specific measures to prevent and respond to the separation of children from their families in humanitarian contexts, including by giving priority to family tracing and family reunification and reintegration;

  • Reaffirms that unaccompanied and separated children should be protected at all stages of migration through the establishment of specialized procedures for their identification, referral, care and family reunification, and to ensure their access to health-care services, education, and legal assistance.

An unprecedented coalition of over 255 organizations, networks, and agencies working at local, national, regional and global levels across all regions came together over the last 12 months to develop and advocate for a comprehensive set of Key Recommendations . This global movement reflects the reality that reforms of child care and protection systems are taking place  in all regions of the world , supported by an ever growing partnership between governments, international organizations, donors, and civil society actors, including faith based organisations, and disability rights organisations. Many of the recommendations made by the coalition are reflected in the text of the resolution adopted today but some are sorely missing. This includes the critical importance of participation by children and their families , not only in the day-to-day decisions that affect them individually, but also in informing and evaluating the system reforms and interventions that are being made to support them more effectively and appropriately.

As we celebrate the adoption of this groundbreaking resolution, we also recognize that the work has only just begun, and our focus is turning to the implementation of these important commitments. It is through these collaborations, through the growing partnerships and commitments at all levels to engage, learn, share, innovate together that better systems of care and protection for children will emerge over the next decade. 
Focus on the UN General Assembly
Third Committee Report on the Promotion and protection of the rights of children

This Report from the UNGA Third Committee includes the text of two Resolutions, adopted by the UNGA today, 18 December 2019. The first, found on pages 7-21, is the Resolution on the Rights of the Child . This Resolution, with a focus on children without parental care, was formally adopted by the UNGA today, 18 December 2019. It reflects a global commitment to strengthen children’s care in their families, prevent unnecessary separation by addressing its root causes, put an end to child institutionalization by progressively replacing it with family and community based care and address some of the drivers supporting it, including orphanage volunteering.

The second Resolution in this report, found on pages 22-32, is the Resolution on the Girl Child .The Resolution highlights several concerns and recommendations related to children's care, including concerns regarding the situation of girls in child-headed households and the call on States to ensure that social protection programmes, including HIV-sensitive programmes, are provided to orphans and other vulnerable children, particularly girl children.

A global coalition of 256 organisations, networks, and agencies working at national, regional and international levels on children's care worked together to propose to Member States a set of Key Recommendations to be included in the  2019 United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) Resolution on the Rights of the Child  to address key challenges and opportunities in implementing the rights of children without parental care. The Key Recommendations underlined commitments made by UN Member States and suggested measures and actions needed to move their implementation forward. 

The Resolution on the Rights of the Child, formally adopted by the UNGA on 18 December 2019, includes many of the recommendations made and reflects a global commitment to strengthen children’s care in their families, prevent unnecessary separation by addressing its root causes, put an end to child institutionalization by progressively replacing it with family and community based care and address some of the drivers supporting it, including orphanage volunteering.

Report of the Third Committee on Social Development

The UNGA Third Committee Report on Social Development from includes the text of several Resolutions adopted by the UNGA today, 18 December 2019, including the Resolution on Follow-up to the twentieth anniversary of the International Year of the Family and beyond , which can be found on pages 48-51 of the Report of the Third Committee on Social Development. The Resolution highlights a number of concerns and recommendations relevant to children's care and strengthening the ability of families to care for their children, including the need to confront family poverty and social exclusion and promote positive parenting, particularly as a tool for preventing violence.

Another Resolution featured in this Report is the Resolution on Policies and Programmes Involving Youth , found on pages 19-27 of the Report of the Third Committee on Social Development. The Resolution highlights a number of concerns and recommendations relevant to children's care, including the importance of youth participation and youth-led organizations.

The aim of this study was to comprehend the magnitude of the situation of children deprived of liberty, its possible justifications and root causes, as well as conditions of detention and their harmful impact on the health and development of children.

The  interactive Global Study  was launched on International Human Rights Day, 10 December 2019.

In the present report, the UN Special Rapporteur on the sale and sexual exploitation of children, including child prostitution, child pornography and other child sexual abuse material, describes the activities undertaken in relation to the discharge of her mandate since her previous report to the UNGA. The report presents a thematic study on safeguards for the protection of the rights of children born from surrogacy arrangements, highlighting the rights of the child to identity, access to origins and to a family environment.

The present comprehensive report from the UN Secretary-General covers all aspects of the implementation of the Resolution on the Protection of Migrants. The report recognizes that immigration detention "is not in the best interests of the child and is a child rights violation" and notes the need to protect and assist migrants in vulnerable situations, including children .

In its resolution 73/155, the General Assembly requested the Secretary-General to submit to it at its seventy-fourth session a comprehensive report on the rights of the child containing information on the status of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, with a focus on children without parental care. The present report outlines legal and normative framework related to children without parental care, programmatic advances for children without parental care, ongoing challenges to care reform, and conclusions and recommendations.

This report of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence against Children highlights action taken at national and regional levels towards realizing the right of every child to protection from violence.

Understanding the Situation

The main finding of this report from Disability Rights International (DRI) is that Bulgaria has replaced a system of large, old orphanages with newer, smaller buildings that are still operating as institutions.

This book highlights exploratory research that examines the links between modern slavery practices and orphanage tourism. It was edited by Joseph M Cheer of Wakayama University, Leigh Mathews of ALTO Consulting, Kate van Doore of Griffith University, and Karen Flanagan of Save the Children Australia.

The purpose of this paper from the journal of Anthropology is to ascertain care available to elderly persons in rural Uganda and their role as carers for their grandchildren and implications on their wellbeing.

Related Topics: Kinship Care
This study from the journal of Child & Family Social Work explored the lived experiences of 23 kin caregivers raising children left behind in rural Northeast China while their migrant parents worked and lived in cities.

Related Topics: Kinship Care

This is the second research publication in a series of thematic reports examining what victims and survivors have shared with the Truth Project about their experiences of child sexual abuse and the institutional context in which it occurred. It details the research findings in relation to experiences of child sexual abuse that occurred in the context of children’s homes and residential care in England and Wales .

This report is an analysis of the feedback that the Elevate Children Funders Group (ECFG) received from a six-question survey with over 70 non-funder stakeholders. These stakeholders work in the field of violence prevention, child protection, children’s care, early childhood development, mental health, youth empowerment, child and youth rights, and education. 

This paper from the Australian Institute of Criminology presents selected findings of a detailed case file audit of 300 crossover children (children from child protection backgrounds in the youth justice system) appearing before the Children’s Court of Victoria, Australia in 2016–17.

Related Topics: Foster Care
Policies, Standards, and Guidelines

This report and recommendations have been developed to improve the housing journey of care leavers in Scotland , and prevent homelessness for people with experience of care.

This report from World Vision reviews the government of Bangladesh ’s progress to create the minimum conditions in law and policy needed to end violence against children.

With this guide, the Global Initiative to End All Corporal Punishment of Children aims to support governments and civil society working to end violence against children through effective prohibition of corporal punishment.

Elevate Children’s Funders Group and Global Philanthropy Project have developed a collection of resources on supporting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) youth. The collection includes a video, presentation, and infographics developed through this initiative, as well as links to additional resources such as an  issue paper  that explores the experiences of LGBTI children and young people in alternative care settings and highlights some promising practices and a  working paper  designed to improve practice in the area of LGBTI* children in care.

Learning from Practice

The goal of this paper from the Purdue Journal of Service-Learning and International Engagement is to describe a pilot effort to provide empirically sound self-advocacy resource kits to parents in the child welfare system in one Indiana county in the United States , in partnership with the organization that aims to advocate for the best interests of children at the center of these cases—Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA).

Related Topics: Parenting Support
The aim of this study from the Children and Youth Services Review was to examine factors and processes of change that occurred through participation in a residential family preservation/reunification programme in New Zealand from the perspectives of service users and staff.

Related Topics: Strengthening Family Care
This article from JADARA gives specific information on a program in Missouri, U.S. that took the emerging therapeutic foster family approach and added a novel component: training deaf families to become therapeutic foster parents, including how it was established, what problems arose, and what solutions were tried.

Related Topics: Foster Care

This brief from the Foster & Adoptive Care Coalition in the United States provides an overview of the 30 Days to Family® program in the U.S. state of Missouri, an intense, short-term intervention developed by the Foster & Adoptive Care Coalition to: 1) increase the number of children placed with relatives/kin at the time they enter the foster care system; and 2) ensure natural and community supports are in place to promote stability for the child.

In this issue, we highlight the care-related Concluding Observations adopted by the  Committee on the Rights of t he Child  at its  82nd session  held
 9-27 September 2019 , with a particular focus on sections addressing children's care.
Click below to read the Country Care Reviews for the following countries:

The 'Finding the Way Home' HBO documentary (premiering in the US tonight 18 December 2019) highlights the painful realities of the eight million children living in orphanages and other institutions around the world, telling the stories of six children in Brazil , Bulgaria , Haiti , Nepal , India and Moldova who have found their way into the care of loving families after spending periods of their lives in an institution.

This documentary from Noticias Telemundo shares the stories of children in Guatemala who were separated from their parents and sold for adoption.

Related Topics: Adoption and Kafala

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