When is it ok to remove a child from her or his birth family?

“Children have the right to be protected from all types of violence, abuse and neglect. But children also have the right not to be separated from their parents against their will, except when the competent authorities determine that such separation is necessary for the best interests of the child,” Olga Borzova (Russia, NR) says in her report, adopted yesterday by PACE's Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development.

The report looks at the thorny issue of taking the right decision about when to remove a child from his or her family. "Sometimes, children are removed from their families for the wrong reasons, for example because their parents are too poor to feed or house properly," Ms Borzova said. "Sometimes, however, children are not removed from their families in time, or are returned too early, with tragic consequences."

According to the committee, the solution lies in putting the best interest of the child first when the initial decision is taken – usually by social services – to remove a child from his or her birth family. The report recommends the development of policy guidelines for member States on how to avoid practices deemed abusive in this context, such as  severing family ties completely, removing children from parental care at birth, basing placement decisions on the passage of time, and having recourse to adoptions without parental consent.

"If we manage to ensure that these recommendations are put into practice, we will have made a big step towards putting into place social services, laws, regulations and practices which truly put the best interest of the child first in removal, placement and reunification decisions – to the benefit of all children," Ms Borzova concluded.

The report will be debated at the PACE Spring plenary session in April 2015.