The right of the child to be heard is an individual right, but also a collective right for groups of children. In practice, this means that the individual child has a right to be heard in all matters affecting them, but also that EU member states and other actors have a responsibility to listen to groups of children and their experiences, for example when planning services such as reception for unaccompanied children.
However, participation is the exception rather than the rule in European systems for unaccompanied children. This is, firstly, the result of the responsibility for the target group often being decentralised to various agencies throughout the country, so structured feedback collection is not carried out by a single responsible actor. A second reason is the fact that the target group itself is not easily approachable because of language difficulties, cultural barriers and frequent movements. Collecting feedback is therefore more difficult than for other groups of children, for instance in regular youth care.
At the same time, it is very important for people working with these children to involve them properly and gain insight into their circumstances, well-being, need for support, current situation and future plans. Firstly, because it enables them to work on the relationship with the child and make an effective support plan and, secondly, because it provides them with recommendations for general improvements in the care being given to the children.
Training and tools
Tool: workbook for newly arrived children
A practical tool for working with identity and belief in the future, while also providing an opportunity to practise language and learn important concepts. The workbook is available in English; Swedish and Danish.
Other practical material for professionals working with unaccompanied children in Swedish. (Published by the Strömsund municipality, Sweden.)
Tool to support the collection of children’s views on protection and reception services
Since 2009, Nidos in the Netherlands has incorporated the outcomes of academic research into policy changes aimed at increasing opportunities for unaccompanied children and promoting their best interests. This research is conducted annually through semi-structured interviews supplemented by international questionnaires on well-being, students interviewing children as semi-peers, group discussion methodologies such as the World Café, evaluation sheets, and cultural sensitivity interview training for guardians.
The different instruments are described in a tool (2014) to help collect children’s views on protection and reception services. The tool can be used by guardians, social workers, daily carers or any other professionals working with unaccompanied children. You can find the tool here.
Tool to evaluate guardianship services
Nidos in the Netherlands has developed an evaluation sheet that can be filled in by the child at the end of guardianship. You can find the tool here.
Training manual on realising children’s rights
SOS Children’s Villages International has developed the training manual Realising Children’s Rights’ (2015) for care professionals working with children in alternative care. The manual is available here.
Tool to support child participation
The project Alone in Finland (Yksin Suomessa) has produced material in Finnish about supporting child participation, including checklists, tools and games. You can find the tool here.
The Finnish Red Cross supports former unaccompanied children who have been granted residence permits. Their Young Influencers Team discusses issues they find important and collects the opinions of their peers. They show them their own potential and possibilities for action, encourage and support them and make sure that they are heard in various contexts (media, research, public talks). They also raise the awareness of decision-makers regarding the difficulties unaccompanied children experience during their integration process. The Red Cross staff help the Young Influencers Team by facilitating their access to venues where they can convey their message.