IMPLEMENTING BEST PRACTICE IN THE CARE OF CHILDREN
PRACTICE ONE: BE GUIDED BY THE BEST INTERESTS DETERMINATION
Best practice in the care for vulnerable children should always be guided by the principles of the best interests of the child. Services should be designed and offered based on the needs and interests of children, not based on the mandate or vision of an organisation. Services should be designed and delivered with recognition of the broader rights of the child and not unnecessarily cause a rights regression.
PRACTICE TWO: STRENGTHEN THE FAMILY, PROTECT THE CHILD.
In most cases where there is a child in need, there is a family in crisis. Many programs that seek to care for children only focus on the child, treating him or her as an isolated individual. This leads to services that completely erase the parents, families and community from the picture and often the child’s life.
The truth is that every child has a context, which is their family and their community. We need to recognise and validate the important role that the family and community plays in child welfare and child protection. Where families are struggling, or communities are facing poverty, we need to seek to strengthen both the family’s and community’s ability to care for and protect their own children rather than removing their children from them. This approach is called family strengthening and family preservation.
PRACTICE THREE: PRACTICE GATE KEEPING
When a child is identified as at-risk, a thorough assessment should be conducted by trained, competent and authorised personnel. They should assess the situation of the child and their family, determine what their real needs are and determine the least invasive form of support that can be offered. Preference is given to, where possible, preserving families and avoiding separation. This is what we call gate keeping and its practice prevents residential care from being used as a first resort or as the only form of assistance given to families.
PRACTICE FOUR: RECOGNISE THE CONTINUUM OF ALTERNATIVE CARE
When a child has to be removed from their family, or they have no immediate family to care for them, and alternative care needs to be arranged, it is important that we look for placements according to the continuum of alternative care. The continuum outlines the types of alternative care in a preferential order, starting with the least disruptive option all the way through to the most disruptive option for the child. A