Rights of the child

Although the European Union has a number of mechanisms for protecting rights specific to children, many young people are not aware of the existence of any specific services and resources they can turn to, beyond family, friends or teachers, if they are in difficulty.

FRA began its work on the rights of the child immediately after its establishment in 2007 by developing indicators to measure respect for and the promotion of children’s rights in the EU. On the basis of these indicators, FRA has collected data and published reports on child trafficking and on asylum-seeking children who have become separated from their families. The research found that these children are frequently ill-informed about their rights and often feel the asylum procedures are too long, exacerbating the fear and insecurity they were already suffering.

The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child has been ratified by all the EU member states. The EU also has an obligation to promote the protection of the rights of the child, in line with the Treaty on European Union. In 2006, the European Commission proposed a strategy for protecting the rights of the child, and in 2011 adopted the ‘EU Agenda for the rights of the child’.

According to Article 24 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, children have the right to such protection and care as is necessary for their well-being. Their views must be taken into account on matters that concern them, and a child’s best interest must be a primary consideration in any action taken relating to them. Other articles of the charter devote specific articles to child protection, such as the prohibition of child labour.



The FRA started its work on the rights of the child by developing indicators to measure the protection, respect and promotion of the rights of the child in the EU, immediately after its establishment in 2007. On the basis of these indicators the FRA has collected data and published two reports, on child trafficking, and on separated, asylum-seeking children.

The indicators to measure the protection, respect and promotion of the rights of the child in the EU, provide an initial toolkit to evaluate the impact, highlight the achievements and reveal the gaps of adopted EU law and policy on children’s status and experience across various fields (e.g. family environment and alternative care; protection from exploitation and violence; adequate standard of living; education, culture, citizenship and participation in activities related to school and sport).

The FRA’s work on child-trafficking in the European Union has identified problems in the definition of child trafficking and the identification and age assessment of the victims, a scarcity of convictions for child trafficking, differences in sanctioning policies, punishment of child-trafficking victims as well as their detention, lack of specialized shelters and children leaving shelters for unknown destinations, as well as difficulties in accessing legal assistance and family tracing, among others.

The FRA’s work on separated, asylum-seeking children in European Union Member States has examined the living conditions and experiences with legal procedures of these children in 12 countries. The research found that separated, asylum-seeking children are often not well informed about their rights and the legal proceedings concerning them; that often appropriate legal representation, advice and counseling is not made available to them; that  the role of  ‘guardian’ remains unclear to many children; that they frequently feel asylum procedures to be long, exacerbating feelings of insecurity and fear; finally, that children often have negative experiences in accessing care (including health, accommodation and food) as well as leisure activities or in practicing their religion.

The FRA has also researched the experience of discrimination, social marginalization and violence of Muslim and non-Muslim youth in three EU Member States, and included a child rights perspective in other aspects of its work, such as in its survey of Roma people and its survey on violence against women. In addition, the FRA devotes one of the chapters of its Annual Report on Fundamental rights to the rights of the child and the protection of children.

FRA’s ongoing/future work

The FRA works together with policy-makers, public authorities, and civil society organizations, informing them about its child rights indicators and encouraging and facilitating their use.  In 2012 the Agency started to develop fieldwork research to examine the extent to which justice processes are child friendly.  The FRA also co-operates with the Commission in the implementation of its Action Plan on Unaccompanied Minors and co-operated with FRONTEX in the preparation of briefings for border-guards participating in FRONTEX operations in regard to the treatment of children. The FRA also plans to start co-operating with EASO.

What are my rights?

What are my rights?

Everyone has rights no matter their age. But children need extra protection because they are young. For example, children have the right to go to school and to be protected from dangerous work. 

Who is a child?

A child is any person under the age of 18.

What are rights?

Rights represent things that every child in the world, including you, should be able to do or to have.

For example, all children should be able to go to school, all children should be able to visit a doctor when they are sick, and all children should be treated well and not with violence.

Five rights you should know!

  • You have the right to live and grow up healthily.
  • All children should be treated the same way no matter who they are and what their parents do. Some children, however, might need some extra support: children who are poor, for example, might need help to buy school books.
  • When adults make decisions about you, they should decide what is in your best interest.
  • You have the right to be heard in decisions that affect you and adults must take your views seriously.
  • You have the right to be protected from violence and harm.

What does it mean?

  • Violence: There are many forms of violence:
    • physical violence such as beatings, slapping, pushing, etc.
    • mental or psychological violence such as insults, neglect, threats, name-calling, bullying, etc
    • sexual violence: any unwanted form of sexual behaviour
  • What does best interest of the child mean?  When adults make decisions about you, they should think if this decision is best for you. When parents are divorcing, for example, the decision where and who the child should live with, should be taken thinking about what is best for the child, not what is best for the mother or the father.
  • What is the right to be heard?  It is about people listening to you. Your opinion must be taken into account. The decision taken by adults may, however, be different from what you want. When this happens, they should explain to you why they decided otherwise.
  • What is protection? Protection helps you to feel unafraid of being harmed by someone or something. Children should be protected from harm. For this reason, they should ask for help from those people who know what to do to protect them such as teachers, a mother or a father or a person they trust.

Drawings used on this web page have been kindly designed for FRA by Elton Chen.

Where do my rights come from?

Where do my rights come from?

The rights of children are written in the laws of the country you live in as well as in European and international law.

A law is a group of rules which regulates the actions of an individual or more people, such as the members of a community or country. This includes children. If people do something against the law, they have to face the consequences of their actions; in the most serious cases they have to go to prison.

What is an international law?

It is a group of rules which a group of countries have agreed to follow. International law also regulates children’s rights.

What are international treaties?

An international treaty is an agreement under international law made by countries and/or international organisations. Under the treaty, everyone agreees to do something in a certain situation. For example, they promise to do all they can to protect specific rights of children such as the right to have food and water, to go to school, etc.

What is the European Union?

The European Union (or EU) is an organisation of 28 European countries. Each country has a different history, geography, language and culture. Together the countries make the EU which decides certain matters for all countries. This includes human rights and children’s rights. However, in some matters countries make their own decisions.

Where do my rights come from?

The rights of children are written in the laws of the country that you live in, called national laws, and in European and international laws such as the Charter of the Fundamental Rights of the European Union, the European Social Charter and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC).

Find out more about:

International laws on the rights of the child


European laws on the rights of the child


National laws on the rights of the child

Drawings used on this web page have been kindly designed for FRA by Elton Chen.

FRA for children

FRA for children

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:

Children and justice


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.

Download the file explaining some of the key terms used in the child-friendly justice project >>


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.

Guardianship for child victims of trafficking


DVARG@ShutterstockAll 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.

Do you want to know more?

Do you want to know more?


FRA carries out research on the rights of the child regarding to justice, violence, discrimination, migration, participation and many other child rights fields. Here are some of the agency’s publications:

  • Children with disabilities: targeted violence and hostility 
    This study looks at the rights of children with disabilities in Europe to identify different forms of violence that young people experience.
  • Children and justice
    This project, based on research with children and professionals, examines how children are treated within the justice system.  

  • Mapping child protection systems
    This project will look at the different systems used in each EU Member State to protect children. This includes the laws, policies and the various national organisations responsible for protecting children, and how they work together.  

  • Guardianship for child victims of trafficking
    This project, is developing guidance, together with the European Commission, on the role of guardians to enhance the protection of child victims of trafficking.  

  • Handbook on European data protection case law
    Personal data should be protected as they can be easily misused. This publication explains how protection is ensured by under European law.  



The Convention on the Rights of the Child is the most important international law on the rights of the child. To help you understand its 54 articles and main topics have a look at:

Council of Europe

The Council of Europe is doing lots of work to help people to become aware of the rights of the child in different fields: justice, violence, disability, etc. A list of child-friendly material is available here:


Children’s rights are very important to the European Union. The EU works to improve the lives of many children and to protect vulnerable kids. You can learn more about your own rights through games, videos and cartoons from:

Drawings used on this web page have been kindly designed for FRA by Elton Chen.



In November 2010, the FRA published its report on “Developing indicators for the protection, respect and promotion of the rights of the child in the European Union” following extensive consultation and close cooperation with relevant organisations and experts in the field.  Following the adoption by the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe of its Guidelines on Child-friendly justice, and by the FRA’s Management Board of the FRA’s project on Children and Justice for 2012, the FRA proceeded to develop its indicators in the field of civil justice and in particular family justice, concerning cross-national divorce and parental separation. This was done in order to incorporate the Council of Europe Guidelines and prepare the FRA’s future work on children and justice.

Civil justice

Family justice, concerning cross-national divorce and parental separation

The FRA has developed an initial list of draft indicators in civil justice specifically elaborating the area of family justice as outlined in the attached document.


Child rights’ indicators in the field of family

[pdf]en (227.39 KB)

Child rights for children

Information for children about child rights including:


Latest news View all


Give hope to victims and help end human trafficking

Each year millions of children, women and men from all over the world are trafficked. On 30 July, the first ever United Nations World Day against Trafficking in Persons will take place to raise awareness of the plight of these countless millions of victims and to globally support campaigns to end human trafficking.

Help end child trafficking through better guardianship

All across the EU, children without parental care risk falling victims of abuse or trafficking. Today, the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) releases a handbook to strengthen national guardianship systems for children in Europe, as part of the EU’s anti-trafficking strategy which recognises the vital role guardians play in protecting children from harm.

Latest projects View all


Mapping child protection systems in the EU

The European Commission asked FRA to develop an overview of national child protection systems. FRA will examine the scope and key components of national child protection systems across the EU. The focus will be on the systems’ laws, structures, actors and how the systems function, as well as human and financial resources and the existing accountability mechanisms.
Findings available

Guardianship provisions for child victims of trafficking

This guidance is intended to enhance the protection of child victims of trafficking. The guidance will consist of a handbook on guardianship for children deprived of parental care. The handbook will reinforce guardianship systems to cater to the specific needs of child victims of trafficking.

Children and justice

The project looks at the treatment of children in the justice systems of the European Union (EU), which is an important issue of concern for EU institutions and Member States.

Latest publications View all


Fundamental rights: key legal and policy developments in 2013. Highlights 2013

Annual report
The EU and its Member States took a variety of important steps in 2013 to protect and promote fundamental rights by assuming new international commitments, revamping legislation and pursuing innovative policies on the ground. Yet, fundamental rights violations seized the spotlight with distressing frequency: would‑be migrants drowning off the EU’s coast, unprecedented mass surveillance, racist and extremist‑motivated murders, child poverty and Roma deprivation.

Fundamental rights: challenges and achievements in 2013 - Annual report 2013

Annual report
This year’s FRA annual report looks at fundamental rights-related developments in asylum, immigration and integration; border control and visa policy; information society, respect for private life and data protection; the rights of the child and the protection of children; equality and non-discrimination; racism, xenophobia and related intolerance; access to justice and judicial cooperation; rights of crime victims; EU Member States and international obligations.