High-level conference at the European Parliament celebrates milestones of the UN CRC but highlights implementation challenges, especially for children in care and unaccompanied migrant children.

Last Wednesday 20 November, the European Parliament hosted a high level event to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UN CRC). Since its adoption in 1989, the UN CRC has been ratified by 194 countries setting rights to protect children from abuse, neglect, exploitation and cruelty. Thirty years on, there is progress in many articles of the CRC, but challenges remain with high levels of child poverty and the protection of migrant children.

“One out of four children in Europe still lives in poverty,” David Maria Sassoli, President of the European Parliament reminded participants. Breaking the cycle of disadvantage for children in poverty requires a bigger commitment from EU Member States to implement structural reforms tackling not just economic poverty, but also adequate access to housing, education and quality services. Most vulnerable are children in precarious family situations or at risk of entering the child protection system.

Public local social services have a duty to care for children in vulnerable life situations and are implementing more and more preventative work with families thus reducing taking children into care. This includes integrated work with other agencies, and best practices such as the ‘corporate parenting’ concept in Scotland that has been embedded in policy and practice since 2014.  

The protection of migrant children also remains an important challenge in Europe, specifically for unaccompanied migrant children. Despite the adoption of several recommendations at the EU level, there are still some critical points in their implementation. Aspects to be improved include:

  • immediate appointment of a guardian for every child that reaches national authorities
  • immediate involvement of social services avoiding any form of detention of migrant children

Public social services have the duty of care for every child under 18, in many countries this age has now been extended to 21 and up to 26. At ESN we are delighted to hear that Věra Jourová, Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality, is committed to keep children high in the agenda of the next European Commission and working closely with President-elect Ursula von der Leyen on the adoption of a European Child Guarantee.


ESN Report: Investing in Children’s services. Improving outcomes

ESN Report: Promoting the social inclusion of migrant children and young people: The duty of social services

ESN Working Group on Integrated Care and Support: Children & Care Leavers


Photographer: Eric VIDAL | EP-095742B

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