What are Children’s Rights?
Every child is born with fundamental human rights:
the right to health care and education
the right to be treated equally
the right to be protected from harm
These rights are outlined in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child which sets the context for our work with children.
United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child
Children deserve to be highly valued for the unique contribution they make through just being children.
Respect for children as a global ideal has been affirmed by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which is a comprehensive internationally binding agreement on the rights of the child, adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1989.
The Convention defines a ‘child’ as a person below the age of 18, unless the laws of a particular country set the legal age for adulthood as younger than 18. Ireland ratified the Convention in 1992.
The guiding principles of the Convention are:
|Article 2:||All children should be entitled to basic rights without discrimination|
|Article 3:||The best interests of the child should be the primary concern of decision-making|
|Article 6:||Children have the right to life, survival and development|
|Article 12:||The views of children must be taken into account in matters affecting them|
The Convention spells out the basic human rights to which children everywhere are entitled which include:
Protection rights: include the child’s right to protection from any harmful activities, maltreatment,abuse,neglect and all forms of exploitation
Provision Rights; provide for the good and welfare of children including rights to minimum standards of family life, food, shelter, and healthcare
Participation rights: refer to the child’s civil and political rights and include the right to be consulted, to information, to freedom of speech and opinion, and the right to take an active role in community and political life
Development Rights :include a child’s right to education, freedom of thought and religion
The Convention protects these rights by setting minimum standards that governments must meet in providing healthcare, education and legal and social services to children in their countries.
Why are children’s rights important?
The acceptance, promotion and implementation of children’s right’s enables children to grow as democratically minded individuals, benefiting children, parents and society as a whole.
Recognising children as individuals and listening to them is the first step towards meeting children’s needs and the recent constitutional change will help facilitate that.
Children’s Rights in Early Childhood Care and Education
Early Childhood Ireland actively advocates for and promotes children’s rights. Our work is underpinned by legislation and policy which upholds the rights of children.
We believe that early childhood is a critical period for the nurturing of each individual child’s curiosity, resilience, creativity, confidence and potential.
We believe that every child has a right to a childhood that is loving, secure and stimulating.
The image we as practitioners have of children influences our relationships as well as the learning and teaching process.
We no longer focus on what children cannot do or the capacities they don’t have, nor do we see childhood as a stage of becoming rather than a state of being. Instead we see the child as full of potential, competent and capable in their own right. This view also means that the child’s voice must be heard and respected in matters related to their rights.
In Ireland the early childhood care and education sector is regulated by the Child Care (Preschool Services) Regulations and works within the National Framework for quality, Siolta and the National Curriculum, Aistear.
In order to comply with Regulation 5 in the Preschool Regulations, early years educators must:
‘ensure that each child’s learning, development and well-being is facilitated within the daily life of the service through the provision of the appropriate opportunities, experiences, activities, interaction, materials and equipment, having regard to the age and stage of development of the child and the child’s cultural context.’
Respecting children’s participation right’s and actively listening to and incorporating the views of children into the culture and operation of the early years setting, forms an essential step in ensuring early years professionals achieve the criteria stipulated under Regulation 5.