Best interests of the child

 6 principles / PREVENTING CHILD ABUSE Programme

Understanding the principle

In all decisions impacting children, their best interests should be of a primary consideration. Decisions and actions affecting an individual child should reflect his/her unique circumstances, all actions and decisions – legislative, administrative or programmatic – that impact all children or a specific group of children, must consider their collective interests.

Why to emphasize the best interest of the child

Promoting children’s rights and wellbeing is a core objective in implementation child abuse programme. Placing a high priority on the best interest of children is a key strategy in achieving this. Children in most societies have few rights, no power, no voice and relative invisibility as citizens. Their interests tend to be disregarded in the public policy sphere. Children and the impact of public policy on their lives are often not visible in decision making forums and almost never reach the top of the political agenda.

The term ‘best interest” describes the well-being of a child which is determined by a wide range of circumstances, such as the age, the level of maturity of the child, the role of the family, social and cultural norms and expectations, as well as the child’s individual history and experiences. It can not be assumed that child’s best interests are an objective fact. There are no prescriptive definitions which apply universally to every child in every context. It is possible to bring a series of considerations to bear when determining best interests, in particular:

  • How to assess the best interests of the child
  • How to balance competing interests

For assessing best interests of the child there are four key interlinked dimensions to take into account:

  • Implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child
  • Reference of the child’s views
  • Holistic approach to assessing best interests
  • Addressing short and long term interests

Concerning balancing competing interests tensions can arise between the best interests of a particular child and that of other children, of parents and of the wider society. No easy answers can be provided when there are legitimate competing claims. However, consideration of the following perspectives might be helpful both in relation to work involving individual children and in programmes to develop services, policies or systems to strengthen child protection:

  • Tensions between different rights
  • Interests of one child versus others
  • Interests of child versus parents
  • Interests of child versus society

More on principle: Principle 4 Best Interest of the Child

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