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Each child has the right to a home

1.  Definition of „rights of children“
Rights of children are the rights each child should have or be able to achieve. All rights are interconnected and equally important.
2. Definition of “child”
A child is defined as a person under the age of 18 years.
3. Non-discrimination
All children have the same rights, regardless of race, religion or skills and irrespective of the child’s opinion or his or her family’s background. It does not matter where children live, what language they speak, what their parents do, whether they are boys or girls, from which culture they come, whether they have a disability or if they are rich or poor.
4. Human dignity
In all situations in life, the child’s dignity has to be respected.
Human dignity refers to the idea that all human beings, regardless of origin, gender or age, have the same value, because all human beings have one particular feature in common  that must be protected – this feature is called DIGNITY.


5. Respect for the child’s opinion
In decisions affecting the child, the child has the right to express his or her views, which then be taken into account. This does not mean that children can tell their parents what to do. The level of a child’s participation in decisions must be appropriate to the child’s level of maturity.
6. Freedom of expression
Children have the right to receive and share information with others in the way they like - whether in a conversation, in a painted picture or in writing, as long as the information does not harm or offend other people’s rights.
7. Freedom of thought, conscience and religion
Children have the right to think and believe what they want and to practice their religion, as long as they are not violating the right of other people. Parents/legal guardians should support and guide them in these matters.
8. Freedom of assembly
Children have the right to meet and to join groups and organizations as long as it does not violate the rights of other people.
9. Right to privacy
Children have a right to privacy.
10. Access to information and media
Children have the right to receive from the radio, from newspapers, books, computers and other sources information that is important for their health and well-being. Adults should make sure that the information is not harmful and they should help the children to understand important information.


11. Protection from all forms of violence
Children have the right to get protection against physical or mental injury and mistreatment. Any form of discipline involving violence is unacceptable. 
12. Sexual exploitation
Children have the right to be free from all forms of sexual exploitation and abuse.
13. Leisure, play and culture
Children have the right to relax and play. Furthermore, they have the right to join in a wide range of cultural, artistic and other recreational activities.
14. Child labor
Children have the right to be protected from work that is dangerous for them or interferes with their education. However, there is no reason to forbid a child to help at home when it is a safe activity and appropriate to the child’s age. If children help on a family farm or in a family run business, the work has to be safe and suited to their level of development. Children’s work should not violate any of their other rights, including the right to education, or relaxation and play.

Health care

15. Health and health services
Children have the right to the best health care possible, to safe drinking water, healthy food, a clean and safe environment and access to information on these subjects.
16. Adequate standard of living
Children have the right to a standard of living that is good enough to meet their physical and mental needs.
17. Children with disabilities
Children who have any kind of disability have the right to special care and support, as well as to all other children’s rights, so that they can live a full and independent life.


18. Right to education
All children have the right to a primary education.
Schools must be managed properly not applying mental or physical violence, abuse or neglect. Any form of school discipline has to respect the child’s human dignity.
19. Goals of education
Education should develop each child’s personality, talents and abilities to the fullest.
It should enable children to respect human rights and their own culture and values as well as to treat other people and other cultures and values with respect. It should teach them to live peacefully, to protect the environment and respect other people.
20. Children of minorities
Children of minorities have the right to learn about their own culture, language or religion and to practice it.  

Separation from parents

21. Children separated from their parents
Children have the right to live with their parents or one parent, unless it is bad for them. They have the right to live with people who really worry about and take care of them.
22. Children deprived of their family environment
Children who cannot live with their own family have the right to a special kind of care and shall grow up with people or institutions who respect their ethnic group, religion, culture and language.

Other laws and rights

Apart from these rights all general rights and laws of a country are valid for all adults who are living and working with children – this includes parents, teachers, caregivers – and it is valid in all places where children are living permanently or part time, such as their homes, children’s homes, child development centers and schools.

Difference between a child development center and a children's home

Child development center
A Child Development Center is a place in which the child’s individual potential is recognized and fostered to the highest possible level.

A Child Development Center has particularly two functions:

a)  Discover the potential of a child.
b)  Offer specific measures that help to develop a child’s potential to the best possible degree.
The focus lies on teaching children in such a way that they are able to give their best to the community/society, which means to discover and improve their skills and make them a useful member of the society.
Children’s home
A home is a place where you can experience safety, peace, reliability and trust among those who live with you (parents, relatives, etc.).
Consequently, a children’s home is a place where children without a home can live safely and in peace and can rely and trust the people who care about them, with the aim to guide these children into a life where they can provide safety, peace, reliability and trust for their own life.

The focus lies on the child as an individual. So not only skills should be discovered and improved, but also the wellbeing of each single child, who is forced to grow up separated from his/her family, is important.
Both institutions should outline an individual way of life for each child

Children in children's homes

Decision-making and admission process


1. Decision-making process
The child and his/her family have the right to an intervention if they wish to change their living situation or when the situation requires assistance. The safety and the interest of the child have the first priority.
Children shall get appropriate information about their situation, and be encouraged to express their views and participate in the decision-making process according to their level of understanding.
A professional decision-making process ensures the best possible place and care for the child.
When children with particular needs are admitted their stay has to be tailored according to these personal needs.
2. Siblings
Siblings shall grow up together. They shall only live separately if it serves their well-being. In this case, they shall stay in contact, unless it affects them negatively.
3. Suitable place                                                               
The child receives the best possible place, which provides a supportive, protective and caring environment.
The place meets the child’s needs, life situation and original social environment. The distance between the child’s community and his/her new home must be taken into account.
The new home supports the child in developing a sense of belonging.
4. Transition
The transition to the new home is well prepared and sensitively implemented. It is realized in such a way that the child’s best interests as well as the well-being of all relevant parties involved is being considered.

Caring process

5. Caregivers
Selected caregivers must have a recognized qualification. This qualification must include the ability to base their actions on the rights of children and the knowledge on child development. Furthermore, they should have learned to communicate with children in an appropriate way. They have good listening skills and are understanding, empathetic and patient.
The caregiver creates a supportive framework based on understanding and respect, allowing the child the development of a close, honest, confidential and stable relationship.
The caregiver always takes into consideration the child’s background, individual needs, abilities and level of understanding.
The care organization ensures that the caregivers are thoroughly assessed, selected, trained, supported and monitored.
Caregivers have access to professional training and support according to their needs and requests. The caregivers have to get the chance to share experiences and practices with other caregivers and to participate in relevant meetings and conferences.
Caregivers have adequate working conditions: They can rely on the financial and human resources that are necessary to fulfill their responsibilities.
6. Family of origin
The relationship with the family of origin is encouraged, maintained and supported in the best interest of the child.
The care organization and the family of origin clearly define roles, rights and responsibilities regarding the child’s development.
Contact takes place in accordance with the individual situation of the child and/or any agreements made on this matter.
Both frequency and quality of the child’s contact with his or her family need to be evaluated.
7. Participation of the child
The child is considered as an expert for his/her own life.
The child gets all relevant information and should be heard and taken for serious.
The child is encouraged and supported to make decisions concerning his or her life.
8. Appropriate living conditions
The living standards and infrastructure have to meet the child’s needs. This includes comfort, security, healthy living conditions, as well as uninhibited access to education and to the community.
9. Preparation for an independent life
The child gets support to shape his or her future and become an independent, autonomous and participating member of society. The child has access to education and the opportunity to acquire life skills and adopt values. That includes the following points:

The child is encouraged to take over daily responsibilities.
According to the level of understanding, the child gets support in learning to look after himself/herself and to deal with money.
The child gets assistance in his/her attempts to integrate into a social network and maintain contact with people in this network.
The individual interests of a child will be discovered and the necessary steps taken to support the further development of knowledge and life skills.
possible forms of education in accordance with his/her potential and own interests in curricular and extra-curricular activities.
The child gets the opportunity to participate in programs that transmit values and norms and help to develop life skills.

Leaving the children's home

10. Planning
The leaving process is thoroughly planned and implemented. It aims primarily on achieving the child’s/young adult’s individual plan.
11. Communication
The leaving process must include a useful and appropriate communication. All involved parties receive all relevant information regarding their respective role in the process. At the same time, the child/young adult and his/her family of origin have the right to privacy. All information is comprehensible and appropriate for the child/young adult and his/her family of origin.
12. Participation
The child/young adult is empowered to participate in the leaving process. He/she is empowered to express opinions and preferences about his/her current situation and future life. He/she participates in the planning and implementation of the leaving process.
13. Assistance and support after leaving
After the child/young adult has left the children’s home, he/she has the opportunity to receive further assistance and support. Even if the young adult has reached the age of majority, the care organization should continue offering support and the opportunity to maintain contact.

Crucial question

Each organization has to prove its mission and vision to find out if it wants to serve for needed children as a home or as a development center.

If Children Development Centers should replace Children’s Homes, many rights of children will not be safe any more and the focus of interest will shift from the needs of the child to the needs of the society.

Position of the Little Smile Association

From the first year of operation, 15 years ago, we, the Little Smile Association (LSA), have considered our children’s homes to be also development centers. Children’s homes, however, have to be more than that. Therefore, we focus on the needs of each child and on his/her right to grow up in a trustful and caring environment. We wish to offer children a place to live where they are treated as individuals with all the rights formulated in this Charter.
The caregivers have also a right for protection and cannot constantly be accused and treated like criminals, if the accusations are mere anonymous complaints or speculative suspicions.  

Government officers from the Department of Childcare and Probation have to respect the rights of children, but also the rights of caregivers and should support the interests of children and not pursue – for personal motives – a policy of discrimination and oppression against organizations, institutions and individuals who are working for and with children in need.

Government departments should demand the same standards for all children’s homes and children development centers and implement the government’s requirements as well in public children’s homes and centers.
As we already did in the past, we also want to take over the responsibility for children in the future according to all children’s rights and national laws. However, we are not willing to reduce our service against the interest of children in need to act only as a Child Development Center.
Child Development Centers can undoubtedly benefit children, if they are older children between 16 and 18 years with a school-leaving qualification.

Each child has the right for a little smile (happy childhood)