Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC Committee)
For over a decade ISS has been submitting factsheets on alternative care and adoption in States to be examined by the CRC Committee. Multiple issues are addressed, for example, lack of support to families in care giving role, prevention measures, development of family based care, licensing and monitoring of residential care, leaving care and ethical adoptions. An example of recent factsheets that have been submitted include Ghana, Haiti and USA.
African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACERWC)
Based on ISS’ joint launch of the Moving Forward Handbook at the ACERWC in 2013, the chairperson requested ISS to apply for observer status (equivalent to ECOSOC status at the UN). This privilege has been bestowed upon ISS due to its work in the region and treaty body mainstreaming activities with systematic submissions on alternative care/adoption. Since 2014, ISS has jointly submitted with BCN, Family for Every Child, Hope and Homes for Children, Save the Children, SOS Children’s Villages International country briefs for example include Algeria, Ghana, Madagascar, Namibia, Rwanda and Zimbabwe.
UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD Committee)
All children without or at risk of losing parental care are particularly vulnerable. However within this group, children with disabilities are clearly among those most at risk. The disability of a child can therefore be a factor leading to their abandonment or relinquishment. This was confirmed in a regional analysis in 2011 of causes of separation in Latin America. International Disability Alliance has also noted that “the widespread stigma attached to persons with disabilities, combined with the strict family planning policy in China renders children with disabilities at a high risk of being abandoned by parents and placed into institutions”. When children with disabilities are abandoned and/or separation from their families becomes necessary, there is an unequal provision of family and community based options for them resulting in a significant over-representation in institutions. UNICEF noted in a 2012 report “that in CEE/CIS states … more than one third of children in residential care have disabilities, with most of these children placed in large-scale institutions …”
ISS has for example submitted country briefs on Argentina, Chile, Hungary, Myanmar and Thailand.
UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR Committee)
As part of its treaty body mainstreaming efforts, ISS with SOS Children’s Villages International (SOS-CVI) presented the Guidelines to members of the CESCR Committee. The lunchtime meeting highlighted issues such as how poverty is often the main cause separating the child from his or her parents, as well as how obstacles in accessing employment, adequate housing and education are risk factors for abandonment or relinquishment. The CESCR Committee were able to see how the rights in the CESCR are closely linked to situations covered by the Guidelines.
Based on the presentation and briefing notes prepared by ISS and SOS-CVI, the CESCR Committee have included a reference to the Guidelines in their concluding observations for Bulgaria: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/cescr/docs/E.C.12.BGR.CO.4-5.pdf
ISS has submitted briefing papers for example on Bulgaria and Kenya
UN Committee on Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW Committee)
Lamentably, mothers and girls in the family and in alternative care settings remain especially vulnerable. Enhanced recourse to alternative care for children stems from parents’ felt-inability to cope – and lack of available support of all kinds to do so – and, in many societies, the prevailing stigma associated with having a child as a single mother or out of wedlock. The situation can be exacerbated for teenage mothers who – have limited access to services for their own development such as education, housing and health – are at high risk of being separated from their child. In some countries the mere status of being a girl can be a factor leading to their abandonment or relinquishment due to public policies and societal views. In informal settings such as extended family, it is not uncommon for girls to be employed as household aids to the detriment of their full development.
To this end, ISS with SOS Children’s Villages International met with the CEDAW Committee and provided a presentation on the above issues, so that the issue of discrimination against women in alternative care and adoption matters is addressed whenever relevant.
UN Committee on Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD Committee)
Regrettably, children in some family and alternative care settings face race discrimination leading to fundamental breaches of human rights, particularly true of some ethnic groups as evidenced by their unequal access to services. For example, there may be widely shared discriminatory practices in administrative bodies against children of migrants and other origins. As a consequence of these hurdles, children from ethnic minorities are usually over-represented in alternative care and problematically in institutional settings such for example, as indigenous groups, those from minority groups such as Roma. Harmful traditional practices can also lead to the child’s abandonment or relinquishment due to public policies and societal views. Early marriage of girls and polygamy has also been identified as a problem many countries.
To this end, ISS with SOS Children’s Villages International met with the CERD Committee and provided a presentation on the above issues, so that the issue of race discrimination in alternative care and adoption matters is kept on the radar.
UN Committee against Torture (CAT Committee)
ISS with SOS Children’s Villages International presented the Guidelines during a lunch time presentation supported by NGO Group for the CRC (now referred to as Child Rights Connect). It was an excellent opportunity to raise awareness of the CAT Committee on cross-cutting issues between CAT and the Guidelines. One aim was to show how violence within the family can lead to the child’s separation from his/her family with issues such as harmful traditional practices (e.g.: use of child brides and exchange of children for debts) and lack of preventative mechanisms. Another objective was to illustrate how children are exploited and violated in different alternative care settings such as in informal care (e.g.: use of household aids), formal care (e.g.: children living in quaranic schools being used to beg for food by marabouts) and outside of country of habitual residence (e.g.: children being trafficked). The CAT Committee were extremely receptive of the presentation engaging in lengthy dialogue with the presenters. The CAT Committee agreed in principle to raise alternative care issues with the State Parties.
The full briefing note can be accessed at: Protecting children from violence in the family and alternative care settings