Our Policy On Children’s Rights

Our Policy On Children’s Rights

Our Policy on Children’s Rights

Early Childhood Ireland believes in children’s rights. We have always worked from a rights based approach and it influences how we see, understand and work with children.  Our work is underpinned by the United National Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). We see the child as full of potential, competent and capable in their own right.

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, and 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 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.Early Childhood Ireland believes 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 and 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.    

Children’s Right’s Referendum

November 10th was a very important and historic day for children in Ireland. It was the day on which the Irish public voted to change the constitution on children’s rights.  

What the Referendum Changes Mean for Children in Ireland

It is important to be aware of what has been achieved through the Children’s Rights Referendum being passed. Below we have provided you with a summary of the key issues dealt with in the referendum, as well as an outline of what these changes mean for children in practise.  

Children Have Rights The new wording recognises that all children have rights and that these rights need to be protected and supported by the State. Article 42.A1 The State recognises and affirms the natural and imprescriptible rights of all children and shall, as far as practicable, by its laws protect and vindicate those rights.
Protecting Children Children have a right to be protected against harm and to be kept safe.Sometimes a child’s parents may not provide enough care to keep them safe, and the State may have to intervene and offer support to families at an early stage, and in some exceptional cases offer alternative caregivers for the children. Article 42A.2 The Amendment puts the best interests of children at the centre of decision-making in these cases. As State intervention will continue to be an exceptional measure, there is continued recognition that the best place for children is with their parents. Any intervention or support will always be proportionate to the risk facing the child. This means that a child is only removed from his or her parents where no other appropriate action can be taken which will protect the child’s safety and welfare in the home.
Best Interests of the Child Children’s best interests shall be of the utmost importance when critical decisions are being made about the protection, welfare and care of the child. Article 42A.4 commits the Oireachtas to legislate to provide that the views of the child are heard and taken into account in court proceedings affecting them. It does not mean that the child’s views will be the determining factor in the case, but that child’s views will be considered by the judge and given due weight according to the child’s age and maturity.
Listening to Children Children have the right to be listened to, and to be active participants in their lives. The views of the child must be heard and taken into account. Article 42A.4.2 requires that the views of the child are heard when key decisions are made about their lives in court proceedings. Strengthening children’s right’s in the Constitution is an indication that children deserve to be listened to and to have a say in their lives.

Children’s Rights Publication

Early Childhood Ireland has produced a booklet on Children’s Rights in Early Childhood Care and Education, which provides an introduction to the United Nations Convention on the rights of the child (UNCRC) and describes how children’s rights are framed and regulated within the Early Childhood Sector. This publication can be ordered from the online shop.