Today is the 25th anniversary of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, a ground breaking development in recognising children as full rights holders.
To mark the occasion, the Opening Doors Campaign joined the anniversary celebrations at the European Convention against Poverty (EPAP) in Brussels, where Dominik, a 17 year-old advocate for children with disabilities, addressed EU officials and European civil society organisations.
Dominik spoke about children in institutional care to an audience including Martin Schultz, President of the European Parliament and Marianne Thyssen, Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion.
“[Children with disabilities] grow up in institutional care – he said – it is a horrible place for children, and I’m very angry that it still happens in Europe, in violation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.”
Institutional care is incompatible with the respect of children’s rights as required by the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). It deprives them of their right to live with and to be cared for by their family (Articles 7 and 9) or to receive substitute family care (Article 20), subject to periodic review (Article 25).
The impact of institutionalisation on children’s physical, emotional and cognitive development undermines their right to health (Article 24), to education (Article 28) and their right to develop their full potential (Article 4). In grave cases, institutional care compromises the right to protection from harm and abuse (Article 19) or even their right to survival and development (Article 6).
A 2006 UN study found that children in institutions are at higher risk of violence including verbal abuse, beatings, excessive or prolonged restraints, rape, sexual assault and harassment.
Children with disabilities are overrepresented in institutional care compared to other children and Dominik – being a person with disabilities – said he was grateful to his parents for giving him “good healthcare and the best available education.”
Children in institutions are deprived of a family, even though – contrary to popular belief – most of them do have parents or grandparents.
Research has proven that growing up in an institution has devastating consequences on the physical and psychological development of the child. Children in institutions are more exposed to early death and permanent brain damage. They show higher rates of school drop-out and lower educational performances compared to children living within their families.
Growing up in an institution not only destroys the lives of children and their families, it is also a poor use of taxpayers’ money: investment in prevention and family-based services is far more cost-effective in the long term than investment in institutions.
On this important anniversary Opening Doors for Europe’s Children calls on European states to take action in order ensure that the UNCRC is fully respected for all children, including those growing up in alternative care.