Striking a balance between the best interest of the child and the need to keep families together

Children have the right to be protected from all types of violence, abuse and neglect. But they also have the right not to be separated from their parents against their will, except when such separation is absolutely necessary in the best interests of the child.

The Committee on Social Affairs re-affirmed that the best interest of the child “should be a primary consideration in all actions concerning children”, in accordance with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. However, “the implementation of this principle in practice depends on the context and the specific circumstances”.

Following the proposals by the rapporteur, Valeriu Ghiletchi (Republic of Moldova, EPP/CD), the committee called on member States to secure child-friendly processes throughout removal, placement and reunification. This includes guaranteeing full child participation by having properly trained and educated staff speak to and listen to the child.

Families should be given the necessary support in a timely and positive way with a view to avoiding the necessity for removal decisions in the first place, and to facilitating family reunification as soon as possible. In that sense, child welfare systems should be open and transparent with a view to bolstering the legitimacy of and trust in the system.

Member States should seek to end abusive practices, such as frequent recourse to the unwarranted complete severing of family ties or the removal of children from parental care at birth. Removing children should be a last resort and be done for the shortest possible period of time and, where possible, children should be cared for within the wider family unit.

Finally, the committee called for appropriate checks and balances to be built into the child welfare system, including regulatory oversight and parliamentary scrutiny where necessary.