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What does FRA do?
FRA helps EU institutions and countries in the European Union (EU), so-called EU Member States, to ensure that the rights of all people including children are respected. It collects information about rights across the EU and gives advice on how to improve the conditions of vulnerable people such as migrants, asylum seekers, victims of violence, racism and hate crime.
What does FRA do for children?
FRA helps the EU institutions and Member States ensure that the rights of children are respected. FRA is currently working in the area of:
The project looks at how children are treated in the justice systems of the EU. The research is based on interviews with professionals (such as judges, lawyers, psychologists...) and children of different ages.
This study will advise European countries how best to treat children who come into contact with courts as a witness, victim or participant. It will also help people to become aware of the Council of Europe guidelines on child friendly justice.
The guidelines on child friendly justice are important as they support countries and professionals in their efforts to promote and protect children’s rights within the justice system. These guidelines apply to all children involved with civil, criminal and administrative proceedings. The guidelines help professionals listen to what children have to say, to give them all necessary information, to treat them with respect, to protect them from discrimination and to make decisions in the best interests of children.
During the 1st stage of the research, which took place in 2012, 574 professionals (such as judges, prosecutors, lawyers, guardians, people working at courts, psychologists and social workers …) were interviewed. Those interviews took place in 10 different countries (Bulgaria, Croatia, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Poland, Romania, Spain, and the United Kingdom). The first stage of the research examined how children’s rights are protected within the proceedings, particularly in courts, from the perspective of professionals who work with children.
Children, involved in the study, have been in contact with the justice system. This means that they have been in court and asked questions by lawyers, the judge, psychologists, etc. The experiences of these children are different. For example some may have seen/heard something bad (witnesses), something bad may have happened to them (victims) or their parents may have divorced.
The second stage of the research will focus only on children and their experiences. In 2013, FRA began preparing for this stage by exploring the best ways to conduct interviews with children. FRA will use this to interview children in 2014 who have been involved in criminal and civil proceedings. January 2014 is also when we begin our main batch of interviews with children. This is the second stage of our work on children and justice, which was piloted during 2013; during the pilot stage 97 children from nine different countries provided us with some very interesting insights into their experiences of judicial procedures.
For more information see the project page.
All children should be protected from exploitation, violence and abuse, says the United Nation’s Convention for the Rights of the Child which outlines the rights that children should have. This project is developing guidance, intended to enhance the protection of child victims of trafficking.
Parents and family members take care of children and protect them. Countries must help parents ensure that all children receive appropriate care and that their rights are respected.
However, not all children grow up with their parents and family. This can happen for a number of different reasons. For example, if children experience violence or abuse at home, other adults who help protect children may decide that it is better for the child not to live with their parents for a certain period of time. Or parents leave their home and children behind to earn money in another country. Children may also move to another country by themselves – These are called unaccompanied children.
Very often children become separated from their parents. They may be exploited by adults for money, such as forcing children to steal, beg or do other illegal things. These children are very vulnerable, and need special care and support.
When children are separated from their parents, countries has to take care of them and protect their rights.
In doing so, the country has to appoint an adult to be responsible for the child. These people are called guardians.
The European Union has developed laws, called directives, saying that countries have to appoint an adult who is responsible for protecting a child when the child is a victim of abuse and exploitation if the parents cannot protect the child. European Union laws also say that countries have to appoint a adult who is responsible for a child when the child is in the country without parental care as an unaccompanied child and who risks becoming a victim. More information on the European Union policies and laws on child rights can be found on this European Commission website.
Guardians must protect the rights of the child and ensure that the child receives all necessary and appropriate help to grow up healthy and happy as well as be an adult.
This handbook has guidance for countries about how to improve guardianship systems to better protect children when they are separated from their parents. For example, it has guidance on what type of knowledge and training guardians should have in order to know how to take care of children. The handbook also has guidance for guardians, explaining what they should do in order to be good guardians and protect the rights of the children that they are responsible for.
For more information see the project page.
Drawings used on this web page have been kindly designed for FRA by Elton Chen.