These children often end up in residential care, working, in detention or on the streets. They are less likely to attend or do well in school, to have access to health and other basic services. As adults, they more also likely to be unemployed, to live in poverty and to be dependent on the state.
Children should spend most of their childhoods in safe, caring and protective families. For this to happen we need to drive more efforts towards the prevention of family separation and the reintegration of children. We also believe that vulnerable families need support to be able to provide their children with adequate care.
Some children leave their homes because of abuse, exploitation or parental death, while others hope to find a better life in the city to study or work. Unfortunately many of these children end up in conditions worse than those they left behind. Some wind up in large-scale institutional care, which can be neglectful, abusive and damaging. Others live in forms of alternative care that are often short-term and poorly regulated.
Children deserve the best care and stability possible to be happy and feel cared for. If their families can’t care for them, the alternative options have to be of high quality. Children’s own needs and preferences have to be taken into consideration. As large-scale institutional care doesn’t offer children quality care, we must work to end it. Alternative care should be temporary where possible and must be properly regulated with the care and protection of children as the highest priority.
This can have devastating consequences for their well-being. Children living on the streets, in child-only households without any adult supervision or with exploitative or abusive adults are extremely vulnerable to violence, exploitation, recruitment by armed forces and are exposed to health risks. They are also commonly unable to attend school, they feel lonely and isolated, and worry about their future, but without any support to deal with these feelings.
Unfortunately we can’t immediately stop all children from having to live outside of adult care. We have to offer them more support and protection. At the same time the development of better alternative care choices for children has to be prioritised. It is also important that children outside of adult care are immediately protected. To prevent children being separated from their families in the first place, families need to be strengthened and better supported.
Their best interests are often ignored. Because of this, children are placed in large-scale institutions or other forms of inadequate care. Within families and in the formal care system, children are often excluded from decision making about their care which can make them feel frustrated and sometimes lead them to leave their homes.
It is important to listen to and respond to children, and to recognise their role in decisions about their own lives, including decisions about whether or not they should be with their families. Children’s right to participate in decisions which affect them is recognised by international guidance. All decisions about children’s care need to be made on a case-by-case basis, to ensure that their individual voices are respected, and their views have to always be considered.
Child protection plays a key role in preventing and dealing with abuse, neglect, exploitation and violence that children face. However, those working on child protection and care do so in a disjointed manner without looking at the bigger picture. Issues such child labour or street children have been addressed as single issues and the links between these problems are overlooked.
Without stronger child protection systems we won’t be achieve our goals. For this to happen, there needs to be strong political will to commit enough resources to children’s care and protection and to drive efforts to improve the quality of child protection systems. Proper policies and guidance is needed; a range of different services to support children in vulnerable families and children outside of parental care must be available and the child welfare workforce must be strong and supported.
We influence national, regional and global decision-makers to implement positive change to child protection policies and services, with a specific focus on children being cared for in a safe family environment. We use our common voices, based on our own diverse contexts and experiences, to reach a common goal.
We work on a different premise. Our decision making is based on what knowledge is valuable, what knowledge needs to be disseminated and how that knowledge should be disseminated to achieve wider change.
Our research is based on our local and national knowledge. We use it to form key policy recommendations and inform our advocacy work.
We develop and implement local solutions to ensure vulnerable children are able to grow up in the caring families they need.