The Council of Europe and Family Policy

Protecting the rights of children in institutions

The family is the natural environment for the growth and well-being of the child. Sometimes, however, children have to be placed into alternative care. Although family-like care environments such as foster families or children’s villages are increasingly widespread, a large proportion of Europe’s children without parental care are still living in residential institutions.
Alongside promoting deinstitutionalisation, the Council of Europe has set up a range of basic principles and quality standards to make sure children placed in institutions can grow up in dignity and enjoy their fundamental human rights.

Specific rights for children living in residential institutions

    § the right to be placed only to meet needs, ensure the successful social re-integration and to have the placement periodically reviewed;
    § the right to maintain regular contact with the child’s family;
    § the right for siblings to stay together or maintain regular contact;
    § the right to an identity;
    § the right to respect of the child’s ethnic, religious, cultural, social and linguistic background;
    § the right to respect for the child’s human dignity and physical integrity;
    § the right to have access to all types of education, vocational guidance and training;
    § the right to participate in decision-making processes concerning the child;
    § the right to make complaints to an identifiable, impartial and independent body.