November 15 2016

Care leavers’ recommendations anchored Paris conference on children’s rights in alternative care

The international conference, Children’s Rights in Alternative Care: ‘Walk the Talk’, held in Paris on 8-9 November, brought care professionals and young experts experienced in European alternative care systems together to discuss ways forward.

Young experts contributed their knowledge and experience from growing up in alternative care to help develop child rights-based trainings and training tools for care professionals through the project Training Professionals Working with Children in Care.

At the closing conference in Paris, these young people joined care experts and ministers from different governments to discuss national child protection realities and goals to make child rights training standard for the child care professionals. Read what they said:

Anita, Croatia

“When you get to make decisions about where you will live, and who you will live with, then you feel confident, and you develop the self-esteem [needed] to become an independent adult.”

“The child rights approach is a language we can all speak. But like other languages we have to practice it, in order to become fluent.”

Fouzy, France

"Love is the best way to ensure the full blossoming of the child."

"Creating a better world for children is an endless fight, but surely one of the most important."

Fabio, Italy

“Our involvement [in training care professionals] is important for young people who come after us.”

Gabrielle, France

“We've experienced what being in care means. Our first-hand knowledge is important to factor in.”

“The trainings helped professionals reconnect with their emotions. As a professional, you have to disconnect from your emotions. But the feedback we got through this training is that these professionals were able to reconnect with their emotions.”

Romana, Croatia

Alternative-care-conference-Paris_young-expert_Romana-300x300.jpg Alternative-care-conference-Paris_young-expert_RomanaSketch1-300x300.jpg  

Romana live sketched at the conference. You can see more of her illustrations in the project publications.

Care experts and ministers from European countries and child rights organisations spoke and participated as well.

Margaret Tuite, European Commission Coordinator for Rights of the Child, DG Justice:


“Someone from the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, rightfully said, we can’t have rights of the child without investing in it. You have to do something about it. All member states have laws, guidelines, but they are just empty shells if there’s no investment.”

“[Training Professionals Working with Children in Care] is a great project. I think it’s a start. And one of the benefits is that the manual will be available and that people will have space to discuss this. It really is about involving children in every decision…”


Richard Pichler, Special Representative for External Affairs and Resources, SOS Children’s Villages International:

“We need quality in child care. Quality care is the right of every child.”

“There are so many papers, so many documents, so many agreements, which are there already. It cannot just be that every five or seven years a new document is ratified, and then nothing happens. Why is this so? Because children do not have enough of a voice. It’s up to us to help them create this voice. We have to ‘walk the talk’… nothing else will change the picture.”

Laurence Rossignol, Minister for the Family, France:

“Children in care are the most affected by the quality of the social system; we must listen to them.”

Solveig Horne, Norway’s Minister of Children and Equality:

Alternative-care-conference-Paris_Solveig-Horne-200x200.jpg "Parental guidance and help at an early stage is important for families,” to prevent family breakdown and crises that lead to children needing alternative care in the first place."

Ionnis Dimitrakopoulos, left, Head of the Department ‘Equality and Citizens’ Rights, European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA):

Alternative-care-conference-Paris_Dimitrakopoulos-180x180.jpg “Care is not a policy option. It is a right guaranteed by the CRC, Article 20.”

“We need to introduce accredited training in child rights… Training on child abuse, and on referral procedures is needed, as well as more practical training on identification, reporting and referral for police, nurses, doctors, teachers…”


Susan Bissell, far right, Director Global Partnership and Fund to End Violence Against Children:

Alternative-care-conference-Paris_Susan-Bissell-180x180.jpg “For training purposes, there is no substitute for the voices of children and youth, and for their safe engagement. I want to congratulate SOS Children's Villages for the safety and security it gives children.”

“Unsurprisingly, SOS Children's Villages has been extremely involved and generous with establishing the Global Partnership and Fund to End Violence Against Children.”

Learn more about the project Training Professionals Working with Children in Care, and download training manual and EU recommendations.

Read more about the conference

All photos by Jennifer Buley