4 July 2014

The EU Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) and the European Commission released a handbook this week aimed at improving national guardianship systems for children deprived of parental care in Europe. The handbook specifically addresses the particular needs of child victims of trafficking.

In order to help standardise guardianship practice, the handbook sets out the foundational principles that should inform all guardianship systems for the benefit of policy makers and authorities charged with developing their national guardianship frameworks.

These principles include: 1) Non-discrimination: All children are entitled to the same level of protection, so that EU Member States should harmonise guardianship provisions and services; 2) Independence and impartiality: Guardians must be able to act independently and impartially in order to advance the best interests of the child for which they are responsible; 3) Quality: Guardians and legal representatives should be qualified and receive continuous training on child protection and welfare; 4)  Accountability: National law should ensure that guardianship systems are clearly defined and monitored so that the relevant authority can be held responsible and accountable; 5) Sustainability: States should provide sufficient human and financial resources for guardianship systems; and 6) Child participation: Children should be informed and involved in all aspects of their guardianship, and made aware of their rights and of how to complain, if their rights are not respected.

EU Commissioner for Home Affairs Cecilia Malmström stressed that “child protection is a cornerstone of our EU anti-trafficking legislation and guardianship plays a very important role for the prevention of child abuse and exploitation. Regardless of their immigration status, children should be first and foremost treated as children.”

The second part of FRA’s handbook sets out the tasks of the guardian and is primarily addressed to guardians or those who supervise their work. The handbook also contains annexes of legal sources and selected literature. It will be made available in all EU languages. FRA has also revealed plans to publish a comparative overview of guardianship systems across the EU in early 2015.

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This article originally appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin of 4 July 2014.
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