The European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA), has conducted research from December 2013 to March 2014 on national child protection systems in the 28 European Union (EU) Member States and collected data on the main components of child protection systems focusing on the following areas:
- National legislative and policy frameworks are a key component of any child protection system. The data presented here concerns EU Member States’ frameworks.
A child protection system needs to ensure respect, protection and fulfilment of the rights of the child according to the principles and provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). For that an integrated child protection system at the national level is needed to create a safe environment for children.
Not all EU Member States have developed a consolidated act devoted to child protection issues, but 18 EU Member States have a key legal instrument devoted to child protection and several Member State are revising their child protection system.
- A comprehensive national strategy or national action plan for children that builds on the framework of the United Nations (UN) Convention on the Rights of the Child is another key component of an integrated child protection system.
National coordination and harmonisation of policies remain a challenge in most Member States. In some Member States that lack a national strategy or policy, local or regional policies have been developed; in others, local and national policies are drawn up in parallel with national strategies and policies.
However, the National strategies are not always linked to sector-specific, local and regional strategies or budgets and where national polices exist they are not always accompanied by concrete action plans with specific time-bound and measurable goals that could facilitate effective implementation and monitoring.
Only 12 Member States have a specific national policy or strategy on child protection. Four Member States have a draft national policy in the adoption process. In some Member States without a national policy, the government has announced that it is prioritising the development of a comprehensive child protection policy.
- National, regional and local authorities share child protection responsibilities. Non-state, private and community actors also play important roles.
National governments have the responsibility, deriving from international, European and national law, to promote, ensure and protect child rights within its jurisdiction, regardless of state structure. Almost all Member States decentralise national child protection systems, assigning some responsibilities to regional or local authorities; the level of decentralisation, however, varies and for that in the majority of Member States there is not a single authority with overall child protection responsibility.
- Child rights impact assessment is a tool predicting the impact of any proposed law, policy or budgetary allocation, which affects children and the enjoyment of their rights.
Only six EU Member States have specific provisions requiring that a child rights impact assessment takes place when developing laws and policies, and taking administrative decisions regarding children. The absence of any such requirements does not necessarily mean that no child rights impact assessment is ever conducted. In many Member States, the child rights impact assessment is part of the human rights or social impact assessment.
- Child participation should be envisaged through direct contact with children and not only be mediated through non-governmental organisations and human rights institutions (thus, indirectly).
The right of children to be heard on “matters that affect them” implies that the views of particular groups of children on particular issues should be ascertained, as for example of children who have experienced the judicial system on proposals for legislative reform in that area, or of migrant children on migration law and policy. Children should participate meaningfully in the planning, implementation and evaluation of policies and programmes for child protection.
The process of direct consultation with children and families when developing or assessing the impact of laws and policies was only identified in 10 EU Member States. In others, consultation is carried out indirectly through formal structures and/or representatives such as children’s councils or parental associations.
In many EU Member States, national child ombudsperson’s offices and child rights commissioners have established consultation practises to promote the participation of children in their daily work.
To read more details on these and many other components of child protection systems and to access numerous infographics on he subject, please click the link below.