May 2021
Focus on Children's Care and Protection of Children's Identity Rights
“It was here in Parkside I was given the name 'NUMBER FIVE.' The number you are given is what you answer to, it is sewn on all your clothes, it is your locker number and your bed and cell number. I ceased being Alan and became number five.”

- Alan, from 'Forgotten Australians: A report on Australians who experienced institutional or out-of-home care as children'
“Eighteen years of records written by strangers. All the answers to all my questions were there. And yet, I feared what they’d reveal about me or what they’d reveal about the people who were entrusted with my care. What truths or untruths? Maybe I was loved. Maybe my mother didn’t want me. Maybe it was all my fault”.

- Lemn Sissay, from his book 'My Name is Why'
The preservation of a child’s identity– including name, nationality and family relations – is a fundamental right (Article 8 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child) and is particularly essential for children who are deprived of their family environment and are in need of alternative care. This month’s issue of the BCN newsletter, published in partnership with Child Identity Protection, focuses on the protection of identity rights for children in care or at risk of being placed in care. 

It features recent research, documentation of promising practices, and testimonies that underscore the importance of an accurate and fully transparent identity for each child from birth and throughout life. These resources explore practices that can lead to gaps in birth information (naissance sous X, baby boxes, poverty and discrimination leading to abandonment, anonymous gamete donations, etc.) and highlight the challenges of protecting the child’s identity in the context of alternative care decisions and transitions. 

In cases where children are separated from their families, their right to know their family origins as part of their identity may be denied, particularly when tracing, contact and reunification is not sufficiently promoted. The child’s identity in alternative care may also be modified as new family relations are created, for example, in kinship care, foster care, kafalah, residential care, as well as adoption. Having universal birth registration (Article 7 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child) and robust gatekeeping systems in place helps to ensure that any formal modification of identity only occurs after a best interest assessment/determination of the child’s needs. Such systems are necessary to prevent illicit practices, including falsification of identity and sale of children, the creation of “paper orphans” and improper recourse to intercountry adoption. 

Furthermore, as children enter and transition out of alternative care or into adoption, there is a need for States to ensure the preservation and accessibility of all the elements that contribute to a child’s identity, including through appropriate laws and practices that support children’s access to their information in line with their evolving capacity and best interests. Likewise, when information is missing or falsified, for example in a child’s dossier, States have a clear obligation to speedily re-establish the child’s identity, making reparations for the harms caused and preventing these violations from reoccurring through appropriate recourse to justice mechanisms.

The identity information (e.g. birth certificates) must also be portable across borders and recognizable by other States, particularly for children who are on the move or who are placed in care settings in another State. Without information about family relations and/or when identity information is not portable, children are at risk of statelessness and family reunification is virtually impossible. 

Mia Dambach
Executive Director, Child Identity Protection 

Florence Martin 
Executive Director, Better Care Network 

Focus on Children's Care and Protection of Children's Identity Rights
The Focus Section brings together research and other documentation published over the past year or two on a particular theme or region. Its aim is to draw attention to the growing body of knowledge developing on the issue and help busy practitioners keep abreast of learning and changes.
Upcoming Webinar
1 July 2021 15h-16h30 CET, 9h-10h30 EST

This webinar, the fourth in a series for the Transforming Children's Care Global Collaborative Platform, will focus on the importance of protecting the child’s right to identity, exploring how a child's identity is created and how it may be modified and/or falsified in alternative care, as well as the need to preserve information about the child’s identity, notably family relations. The webinar addresses the significant issue of State’s responsibility to speedily re-establish the child’s complete identity.
Child Identity Protection

This video from Child Identity Protection provides an overview of the child's right to identity and helps illustrate, from an individual's point of view, the impacts of missing elements of one's identity, and of the failure to protect children's identity rights.

This publication from UNICEF presents the latest available country data and global and regional estimates of the number of unregistered children. It also assesses progress over time and presents evidence for the amount of effort that will be needed – at both global and regional levels – to achieve universal birth registration by 2030.

In the present general comment, the Committee on the Rights of the Child explains how States parties should implement the Convention on the Rights of the Child in relation to the digital environment and provides guidance on relevant legislative, policy and other measures to ensure full compliance with their obligations under the Convention and the Optional Protocols thereto. Included in this general comment is guidance on the child's right to identity and birth registration, as well as the importance of access to digital technologies for children in alternative care or who are separated from their parents or caregivers (para. 87). Paragraph 72 notes that "States parties should ensure that children and their parents or caregivers can easily access stored data." As per paragraph 68, this data "may include information about, inter alia, children’s identities, activities, location, communication, emotions, health and relationships." Furthermore, the general comment urges States parties "to promote the use of digital identification systems that enable all newborn children to have their birth registered and officially recognized by the national authorities, in order to facilitate access to services, including health, education and welfare" (para. 79).

This paper from ISS/IRC is aimed at supporting professionals who accompany adoptees and their families in the process of searching for one's origins, and the various authorities with the competency to make decisions on this matter. The publication focuses on the issue of identity and provides a comparative analysis of the legal and practical framework of the search for intercountry adoptees' origins at national, regional and international level. This report also shares promising practices and explores various avenues for developing knowledge about the conditions for exercising the right of access to origins in different countries. Finally, it underlines challenges such as the proliferation of new technologies or adoptions tainted by irregularities, which have been exposed during a search for origins and provides potential solutions to address them.
This qualitative study from the journal of Cogent Psychology examined disclosure for adult survivors of abandonment. Sixteen interviews with individuals in the UK were recorded and coded. Findings are centred around the experience of disclosure, the process of disclosure specifically exploring the role of half-truths and finally the impact of disclosure on the search for identity and self.

This paper from Inter Country Adoptee Voices (ICAV) attempts to bring together not only the voices and experiences of impacted intercountry adoptees who have lived experience with some form of illicit practice in their adoption (including falsified documents), but also the voices of a few adoptive parents and first family representation. Among the recommendations from adoptees and their families is to strengthen laws for registering a child once born and require independent verification of the child’s identity, or include an internationally accepted DNA test to prove parentage.

This report from Santé Sexuelle Suisse, available in French, explores confidential birth in Switzerland. It highlights the fact that opportunities for confidential birth are not well known in Switzerland and gives recommendations for cantons, hospitals, planning centres and other stakeholders in an effort to avoid anonymous births.

This episode of Foreign Correspondent from ABC News in Australia exposes the "ugly truth" that donations and volunteer efforts of Westerners, including Australians, often drive an exploitative orphanage industry in developing countries (in this case, Nepal). The video describes how children are "falsely presented as orphans to attract foreign sponsors and volunteers." These "orphans" are being "invented," says Kate van Doore, Australian lawyer and co-founder of Forget Me Not. "They're paper orphans. They're orphans made by their fraudulent documentation only." This includes fraudulent birth certificates and death certificates, as well as the changing of children's names.

The Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes and certain related matters was established by the Irish Government in February 2015 to provide a full account of what happened to vulnerable women and children in Mother and Baby Homes in Ireland during the period 1922 to 1998. This final report of the Commission notes specific issues such as discrimination and adoption from residential care and provides recommendations related to tracing and redress. Specifically, the report notes that the “person’s right to his or her identity is an important human right” and adds that “ a mechanism could be put in place to allow a birth mother to argue that her privacy rights are being eroded. […] Both the birth parent(s) and the adopted person should have the right to legal representation and legal aid should be provided for all parties if required”. This report demonstrates how children's identities were falsified through forced adoptions and highlights the importance of preserving information about origins as well as need for restoration.
This article from the journal of Child & Family Social Work presents the outcomes from the first qualitative study that explores the experiences of Chilean adults who were adopted and searched for their origins in Chile through the National Service of Minor's Search for Origins Program. The narratives of the participants show that, despite legislative changes, a series of obstacles and contradictions continue to exist, which make it difficult to guarantee the right to know one's origins. The article discusses the different challenges to be considered by researchers, practitioners, and policy‐makers involved in adoption policies and practices.

This report presents the results of an independent investigation into abuses in intercountry adoption in the Netherlands during the period 1967-1998, and the role of the Dutch government in this regard, particularly in response to complaints and requests from adult adoptees searching for answers about their adoptions and their identities. Among the abuses uncovered in the report are document forging, incorrect or missing data, and falsified records. Focusing on on intercountry adoptions from Brazil, Bangladesh, Colombia, Indonesia, and Sri Lanka, the report notes that, as a result of these historic abuses, adoptees "are unable to find the answers to the existential questions about their origin and identity."

This paper from the Centre of Excellence for Civil Registration and Vital Statistics Systems aims to contribute to the achievement of Target 16.9 under Sustainable Development Goal 16 by analyzing the role of the civil register and the legal underpinnings for identity in four countries: Afghanistan, Georgia, Rwanda, and South Africa. It describes institutional and operational models in each country that support universal registration of births, deaths, and other vital events. Findings related to birth registration of children of unknown parents, the recording of family relations in civil registration, citizenship for children who are adopted, the decline in birth registrations during lockdowns due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and identity documents as a requirement in accessing social assistance and foster child support grants are highlighted.

Building on the universal ratification ILO Convention No. 182 on the Worst Forms of Child Labour  and 2021 as the International Year for the Elimination of Child Labour, this innovative toolkit from The Alliance for Child Protection in Humanitarian Action identifies the risks of child labour in humanitarian action, as well the importance of quality prevention and response programmes. Of the estimated 152 million girls and boys in child labour, many have been unnecessarily separated from their families with little or non-existent contact, especially for children on the move or in irregular migration. Many of these children lack identity documents, which makes the process of age verification and access to basic services challenging. As such, the tool on age verification is particularly helpful, as well as the other tools.

This report from the UN Office of the SRSG on Violence against Children explores repatriation, rehabilitation, and reintegration of the tens of thousands of foreign, Iraqi and Syrian children who are being held in detention on suspected ISIS association or terror-related offenses, or in camps. The report notes that these children are exposed to violence, due process violations (e.g. lack of hearings and legal representation) and family separation. Separated from their families, these children are deprived of knowing their family relations and are at risk of statelessness. In situations where children have been illegally recruited by violent extremist groups, the report notes that priority should be given to repatriation mechanisms that ensure that their best interests are paramount.

This report from Amnesty International, available in Spanish, the removal of babies from their birth parents in Spain during the Franco dictatorship (1939- 1975) until the 1990’s. The report highlights the child’s right to identity and notes the key aspects of identity that these "stolen babies" (now adults) are often missing, such as the name of their birth parents and information about the circumstances of their birth. Despite multiple complaints since 2011, restorative measures have been limited. This report helps advocate for States to comply with their obligation to speedily restore missing identity elements, including by lifting the statutes of limitations in these cases.

This series of 3 training sessions is based on the newly developed handbook on “Civil Registration, Vital Statistics, Identity Management: Communication for Development targeting CRVS practitioners in LMICs” developed by the United Nations Statistical Division (UNSD) with technical and financial support from the Centre of Excellence for CRVS Systems. The handbook provides guidance on the use of different tools to research, design, implement strategies and measure Social and Behavior Change/ Communication for Development.
This Independent Expert Report from Equal Rights Beyond Borders and the International Refugee Assistance Project explores the challenges experienced by Eritrean refugees in Europe in the context of family reunification processes, especially those relating to strict documentary requirements demanded by some EU Member States, in particular Germany. The report shows that the requirements to provide official documents - such as national ID cards, passports, and records of vital events, in particular birth, marriage and death certificates - often hinder the effectiveness of the right to family reunification.
This analysis focuses on the case of Pedersen et al. v. Norway, where the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR, Court) addressed the issues of adoption and post-adoption contact. In this case, the ECtHR concluded that Norway violated the right to respect for family life (Article 8) when implementing child protection measures. According to the blog post, "The central criticism of the Court focused on the fact that the authorities were responsible for the family breakdown, as they failed in their obligations to take measures to facilitate family reunification (para 68). Finally, the Court focused on maintaining contact between the child and the biological parents and found that such limited post-adoption contact did not allow the development of a meaningful relationship between the child and the biological parents," which was one of the factors that led to to the decision to remove the birth parents' parental authority.
This report from the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe looks at the right of donor-conceived persons to know their origins in a global context where more than 8 million children worldwide have been born as a result of assisted reproductive technologies. It proposes a set of recommendations in line with International and European human rights law covering the recognition of the right to know one’s origins, while at the same time taking into consideration the rights of other parties involved. The publication clearly advocates for the lifting of the anonymity of gamete donors, however not retrospectively, except for medical reasons or where the donor has given his or her consent.
The Better Care Network will continue to share tools, guidance, information, and other resources regarding children's care and protection during the COVID-19 pandemic as practitioners, policymakers, and other key stakeholders work to respond to the needs of children and families impacted by this crisis. For more resources on COVID-19 and children's care, visit the growing collection of documents in the 

This study from Better Care Network and the Law Futures Centre at Griffith Law School explores the effect of COVID-19 on a small number of privately run and funded residential care institutions by conducting a qualitative research study comprising 21 semi-structured interviews across seven focus countries. The study is accompanied by three case studies.

This document - produced by Better Care Network, Save the Children, The Alliance for Child Protection in Humanitarian Action, UNICEF, and an Inter-agency Task Force - is now available in Arabic. It guides actors in humanitarian and development contexts on the adaptations and considerations needed to support children who are either currently in alternative care or are going into an alternative care placement during the COVID-19 pandemic.

This catalogue from Save the Children is an easy-to-use collection of lessons learned from Child Protection innovations and adaptations that were implemented during the COVID-19 pandemic. It is primarily intended for use by Save the Children and partner Child Protection staff at country level. The interventions recorded here ensured continuity of essential Child Protection services at a time when operational contexts were restricted, and children and communities were harder to reach. They are intended to inspire and enable further rapid innovations and adaptations when devising new programming, both during the ever-changing contexts of the COVID-19 pandemic and in the event of any future public health crises. 

This paper from the American Enterprise Institute asks the questions: What can we learn from the pandemic—and federal, state, and local governmental responses— about the cracks in the child U.S. welfare system? What lessons can be carried forward post-pandemic?

These Practitioner Guidance Papers share the approaches of five Family for Every Child members in adapting existing helplines or setting up new ones during the COVID-19 pandemic: Voice of Children in Nepal; Butterflies in India; Jordan River Foundation in Jordan; METAdrasi in Greece; and Praajak in India.

In attempts to delineate the future impacts on today's children, this paper from Elevate Children Funders Group analyses the COVID-19 crisis as a dynamic phenomenon that shapes children's lives well into adulthood, with age and gender considered key influencing factors. It examines the impacts from previous crises and the available data to build prudent assumptions about the present situation and outlines four scenarios which provide opportunities to identify potential levers for positive change.

Understanding the Situation
Analyzing unique data from the 2017 Myanmar Grandparents Caring for Grandchildren Survey, this study from the journal of Social Science & Medicine examines the extent to which the middle generation's cross-border and internal migration are associated with caregiving intensity, perception towards grandchild care, and psychological well-being among grandparents.
This study from New Directions for Child and Adolescent Development used community‐participatory qualitative methods to deeply explore the lived experiences and emotional repercussions of family separation and reunification among unaccompanied adolescent migrants in the United States.
In this chapter of Reforming Child Welfare in the Post-Soviet Space, the authors analyse how children in foster care in Russia perceive their experiences in foster families through the use of biographies.

Based on original research, this book from Bristol University Press provides a comprehensive account of the issues surrounding pregnancy and parenthood for young people in and leaving care in the UK.
This paper from the Children and Youth Services Review fills a gap in specialized knowledge regarding continuing professional development (CPD) in social work in Romania by examining how child protection Romanian social workers experience CPD throughout their professional lives.
This paper from Children's Geographies examines the lived experiences of children who interacted with tourists in a performance-based orphanage in Siem Reap, Cambodia.
Policies, Standards, and Guidelines

This guide from Destination Unknown analyses the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (GCM) and the Global Compact on Refugees (GCR) through a child rights lens and outlines the measures foreseen in these documents (the Global Compacts) for the protection of the rights of the child.

This report from ChildFund Alliance, Eurochild, Save The Children, UNICEF, World Vision highlights perspectives and priorities of more than 10,000 children and young people, from within and outside the European Union (EU). The children and young people testify to the imperative of listening to what children say and building economic, social, legal and policy frameworks that place the realization of their human rights at the centre of the work of the EU. This report offers critical evidence to inform the EU policy agenda.

First Years First Priority is a Europe-wide campaign set up to advocate for prioritization of early childhood development in public policies, with a particular focus on families and children who are at greater risk of discrimination and exclusion. This briefing from Eurochild, International Step by Step Association, European Public Health Alliance (EPHA), and Roma Education Fund (REF) provides a description of the policy context in which the 'First Year, First Priority' campaign is launched.

This policy brief from the National Council on Family Relations presents a list of recommendations for U.S. policymakers to transform the child welfare system by prioritizing maltreatment prevention, racial equity, and child and family well-being.
This paper from the journal of Australian Social Work argues that the Australian Commonwealth Government should introduce a nationally consistent extended care system that would require all jurisdictions to provide a minimum standard of support until at least 21 years of age.
This chapter from the Routledge Handbook of Family Law and Policy examines how permanency for children is achieved in New Zealand in the child protection context. Unlike other jurisdictions (such as England and the US), adoption of children in permanency cases has generally not been followed in New Zealand since the passing of the Adoption Act 1955. Instead, special guardianship was enacted beginning in 2016 as a vehicle for securing permanency for children in new families. 
Learning from Practice
In Vancouver, Western Canada, 60 agencies and 20 youth from government care are working in partnership using a collective impact approach to address the systemic issues and barriers to healthy development that youth from care experience. This mixed-method evaluation from the journal of Child Abuse & Neglect included quantitative and qualitative data, collected through outcomes, diaries, surveys, and focus groups, to measure process and outcomes.
In this series of critical conversations from CPC Learning Network, experts share their insights about racism, colonialism, patriarchy and power as they affect children and families around the world.

This article from the International Journal of Social Pedagogy offers an account of the authors’ experiences as foster carers for an unaccompanied asylum seeker in Scotland (and through him, supporting other asylum-seeking boys).

In this webinar from the Transforming Children's Care Global Collaborative Platform, members of the International Parent Advocacy Network discussed parent advocacy and presented the literature review International Review of Parent Advocacy in Child Welfare: Strengthening Children's Care and Protection Through Parent Participation. The webinar included presentations from parent advocates who shared examples of parent advocacy in their contexts.

This video from the World Health Organization (WHO) and Nurturing Care explores the pivotal role of health care practitioners in supporting nurturing care for children.
This webinar, informed by both detailed case studies developed by the Aga Khan Development Network and UNICEF programme implementation in Zambia with the support of the LEGO Foundation, provided a unique opportunity to engage with and understand the experiences of government, development partners, civil society, frontline health workers, and parents in Eastern and Southern Africa.

In this How We Care series webinar, Family for Every Child presented the programming of three CSOs on how they are supporting kin carers and the vulnerable children in their care, in their respective regions.

7-11 June 2021
Milan, Italy
9 June 2021
9 June 2021
16 June 2021
International Parent Advocacy Network
24 June 2021
1 July 2021
Transforming Children's Care Global Collaborative Platform
20 June 2021
30 June 2021
No Deadline Provided
International Parent Advocacy Network (IPAN)

Newsletter participants, currently 4,463 in total, work on issues related to the care and support of vulnerable children across Europe, Africa, the Middle East, Asia and the Americas. The purpose of the newsletter is to enable members to exchange information on matters of mutual concern. If you would like to share a document, raise a specific issue, request a newsletter subscription, or reach out in any other way to the Network, please send the information to us at or visit our website at 

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