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Guardianship systems for children deprived of parental care in the European Union

With a particular focus on their role in responding to child trafficking

Children who are deprived of parental care and are unaccompanied or separated from their primary caregiver are particularly vulnerable to abuse and exploitation. They are entitled to special protection.

Effective guardianship systems are key to preventing abuse, neglect and exploitation and they protect child victims of trafficking. Children who are separated from the parents are at heightened risk of exploitation, including falling victims of trafficking in human beings. In other cases, children have been separated from their primary care givers as they were also involved in exploiting the child they were responsible for.

The EU Strategy towards the eradication of trafficking in human beings 2012–2016 underlines the importance of comprehensive child-sensitive protection systems to prevent and address child trafficking. Robust guardianship arrangements are a cornerstone of such child protection systems. Yet the roles, qualifications and competences of guardians vary substantially from one Member State to another.

In June 2014, the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA), in close cooperation with the European Commission, published a handbook on Guardianship for children deprived of parental care – A handbook to reinforce guardianship systems to cater for the specific needs of child victims of trafficking. The handbook offers EU Member States comprehensive guidance and recommendations on strengthening national guardianship systems. The handbook lays down the core principles that should guide national guardianship systems and suggests how national authorities, as well as guardians, could strengthen guardianship arrangements to respond better to the needs of child victims of trafficking. By promoting a shared understanding of the main features of a guardianship system, the handbook aimed at improving conditions and respect for the fundamental rights for all children deprived of parental care. It also sought to respond better to the specific needs of child victims of trafficking.

The agency mapped national guardianship systems with the aim of identifying common challenges and promising practises. This report presents the main findings of this background research, which were also used to develop the handbook. These two publications are the latest results from FRA’s longstanding commitment to promote and protect the rights of the child.

This comparative report may assist Member States to understand better the strengths and weaknesses of their national system. It may also assist them to take measures to promote the effective protection of all children and, more specifically, find an adequate response to the needs and rights of those who are in the most vulnerable situation, such as child victims of trafficking.