15th February 2005

A Bernard van Leer Foundation European partners meeting entitled “Pulling up another chair” was held in London in February 2005, bringing together projects focusing on children’s participation from eight countries to exchange information, discuss how children from birth to age 8 are taking part in matters that affect their lives, identify some of the relevant issues and challenges and address key research questions and their corresponding links to practice. Independent child’s rights consultant Gerison Lansdown delivered two sessions on promoting and measuring the evolving capacities of children and the exercise of their rights; she is the author of a study published jointly by the UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre and Swedish Save the Children exploring these issues, available in early 2005 at www.unicef-icdc.org. Penny Lancaster of Coram Family’s Listening to Young Children training and consultancy service facilitated a forum to reflect on what had been achieved by coming together, on strategies for taking children’s participation further and on future collaboration.
With respect to children of imprisoned parents, the meeting provided an important prompt for Eurochips and its partners to ensure that, even within the difficult circumstances of a prison play project, children can participate–they can choose their activities from the selection available, they can be in control of their activity, and play providers can offer them different ways of evaluating the experience and offering their suggestions, from encouraging them to speak about what they would like, to having child-friendly evaluation tools on offer. One method highlighted by a Bernard van Leer partner, for example, encourages children to pick one of three smiley faces in different colors. Children can choose a smiley face corresponding to his or her feeling: green = “That was nice,” orange = “I don’t know,” red = “I didn’t like it,” and fixes the smiley face on a poster next to the activity of the day. The meeting also underscored the importance of respecting the relevant articles of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and looked at:

Article 5
respects the responsibilities, rights and duties of parents to provide appropriate direction and guidance for their children.

Article 12
states the right of the child to express an opinion and to have that opinion taken into account, in any matter or procedure affecting the child.

Eurochips also refers you to

Article 9
safeguards the rights of a child separated from their parents to maintain contact with their parents provided it is in the child’s best interests.

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Author: rmchristen