Children without Appropriate Parental Care
The Children without Appropriate Parental Care (CWAPC) Working Group was founded to create, disseminate, and promote the Guidelines for the Alternative Care of Children at a global, regional and local level to promote the rights of children.
The Convention on the Rights of the Child clearly states the importance of a family environment for children (preamble) and States’ responsibly in ensuring alternative care for children deprived of a family environment (Art.20). However, it is less clear regarding the responsibility of States to support parents in their caregiving role and implement strategies to prevent the unnecessary separation of children from their families as well as the goals for alternative care, and the criteria for making decisions regarding alternative care placements.
The Guidelines for the Alternative Care of Children, created by the CWAPC working group, were endorsed by the UN General Assembly in 2009. The Guidelines encourage States to implement their responsibilities to protect and support children and families, bearing in mind the economic, social, and cultural conditions that often lead to unnecessary separation. They clearly state that the family, as a natural environment for the growth, well-being and protection of children, should be supported. They also outline the variety of formal and informal care that exists (such as kinship or family-based care, foster care, residential care, and supervised independent living) for children who need alternative care with considerations for determining the most appropriate placement.
The Working Group on Children without Appropriate Parental Care
The CWAPC Working Group was first formed to in 2004 to develop international standards on alternative care. This was achieved when the UN welcomed the Guidelines for the Alternative Care of Children in 2009. The Guidelines were created to help States to make decisions on alternative care placements for children. Complimenting the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Guidelines highlight the importance of the best interests of the child, non-discrimination, and children’s participation in decision-making.
The Guidelines stress the key principles of necessity and suitability to help determine first and foremost whether an alternative care placement is necessary for a child’s development and if so, what placement would be most suitable. First and foremost, States are encouraged to prevent separation through supporting caregivers whose capacities are limited, providing appropriate care and protection for vulnerable children, and tackling discrimination and other statuses that may lead to the abandonment of a child. States are also advised to develop a gradual deinstitutionalisation strategy of large residential care facilities (institutions) for their progressive elimination.
Key considerations for alternative care placements should also include:
- Keeping the child as close as possible to their family of origin
- Permanency as a key goal
- Protection from abuse, neglect and exploitation
- The removal of a child from his/her family as a last resort
- Poverty never being the only justification for removing a child from his/her family
- Safeguarding all the rights of the child
- The importance of keeping siblings together
- The recognition of formal and informal care provided by relatives as valuable care options
These reflect the evidence, global learning and best practices in the areas of alternative care. It is the State’s responsibility to ensure the safety, wellbeing, and development of any child placed in alternative care through the regular review of the appropriateness of the arrangement.
Ten years after the Guidelines have been welcomed, the goal of the working group is implement initiatives to ensure the Guidelines are known and used to promote the rights of children and to engage with the human rights system on issues related to the alternative care of children including: promoting youth participation, supporting the work of national child rights coalitions, the UNCRC, other treaty and regional bodies, and the Human Rights Council.