“Why supporting families is crucial to protecting the best interests of the child” – International Day of Families
The International Day of Families (15th of May) is an important opportunity to recognize the crucial importance of supporting parents in their nurturing and caring role.
Children’s experience of family life is probably the single most important factor in their well-being and development. Even as a growing proportion of children’s lives is spent outside the family home, it is family relationships that enable, or indeed hinder, children’s ability to flourish.
Family and parenting support is central to the pursuit of realizing children’s rights and promoting well-being across Europe. Ultimately, parents carry responsibility for their children’s care. They need the financial means, time and support necessary to do so effectively. This requires that society values and supports parents in their nurturing and caring role, but the challenge is how to support families who are struggling in a way that is non-judgmental and empowering in its approach.
A wider tendency in society wants to demonize and punish ‘bad’ parents. But the reality is never quite so simple. The solutions lie in supporting families early – before and after childbirth –, engaging with parents so they feel listened to and empowered, and ensuring all families are able to live dignified lives and take responsibility for caring for their children.
Investment in family support to prevent children being removed from their parents is still weak or non existent. Social workers have excessive case loads, poor training and low pay resulting in an inability to support struggling families. Poverty remains a root cause of children being placed in care.
Supporting and strengthening families most in need is crucial for tackling child poverty and breaking the intergenerational transmission of disadvantage. It is the responsibility of governments to create a sustainable social welfare which prevents poverty and creates crucial safety nets for vulnerable children and families. Financial support must be coupled with services and proactive and preventive welfare and protection policies.
We, at Eurochild, are exploring the possibility of an action research project focused on evaluating the impact that social protection policies have on children and their families and the ways in which these policies work to lift children out of poverty. Using a participatory approach and through direct engagement with children and young people, Eurochild would like to build capacity within the children’s sector to promote a child right’s approach to welfare and activation policies. Fighting discrimination and stigma surrounding public perception of social protection and families who receive it is also crucially important.
On the International Day of Families, the situation of 100,000s of children arriving in Europe from war cannot be far from our minds. The pressure on care and support systems in both transit and receiving countries is huge. Protecting the best interest of the child, including reconnecting and supporting families, remains our ultimate compass.
Our political leaders must respond proactively and compassionately by investing in infrastructure and support for families, communities, professionals and volunteers.
Eurochild Senior Policy Coordinator – Policy, Practice and Research