ATD Fourth World recently co-convened a lunch dialogue in the “Leave No One Behind” series with SOS Children’s Villages and the Bahá’í International Community with the support of the Permanent Mission of Austria to the United Nations. Held on February 14th 2017, the theme of this lunch dialogue was “Children Without Parental Care or at Risk of Losing It.”
Ms. Sofia Garcia Garcia, Representative to the United Nations for SOS Children’s Villages International, initiated the dialogue by reminding that children without parental care are often the most forgotten and neglected groups of children by policy and investment. H.E. Mr. Jan Kickert, Ambassador, Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary, Permanent Mission of Austria to the United Nations shared the opening remarks with Mianna Dellar, a young 17-year-old with direct experience of alternative care.
In terms of policy efforts and good practices, Austria has always been a children rights advocate and was involved in promoting UN guidelines on alternative care for children. Reports were made on the efforts realized by the country to improve pedagogical houses and alternative care as well as on the attempts made to shift more children from these houses to foster care. Yet some challenges are faced in supporting children transitioning from family and community based care to independent living. Managing the increased influx of unaccompanied minors and refugee children is also an increasingly important topic.
The key remarks agreed that the UN should invest in children, as they are the future ambassadors of the world. Children in care need extra support than children living with their parents, especially at the emotional level so they can come to terms with their past and move forward in life. The government has a special role to play in this matter. Foster children do not learn the essential skills that are typically learned from the parents, such as opening a bank account – thus, life skills programs must be in place to ensure that young people without traditional care are not left behind in this capacity. Living in poverty is a generational crisis: a cycle of intergenerational poverty goes on. The solution is to stop this systemic cycle of poverty and to give trust, emotional and mental support for both the children and the caregivers.
- A child that loses its parents also loses its first line of protection
- It is important to prevent unnecessary separation of families from their children.
- Each child and youth without parental care should be given the chance to shape their future and to become a self-reliant participant in society. They must be granted the right to live in a supported and cared environment.
- Educational but also mental and emotional support is key for children living without parental care
- Support social workers that work with children with proper salaries and work support because their work affects the lives of children.
The dialogue ended on a positive note with appreciation of the fruitful discussion and testimony from direct stakeholder.