In community social pediatrics, the child is at the centre of the approach because, as Janusz Korczak put it in the 1920s, children are not the people of tomorrow; they are people of today. In order to improve children’s health and quality of life, it goes without saying that we must build communities with them that are stronger, fairer, more supportive and more respectful. We must therefore empower children, adults and the stakeholders around them based on the Convention on the Rights of the Child. This enables children to be the primary agents of change in their lives and in their communities.
So every child can succeed
The Convention on the Rights of the Child, ratified by Canada in 1991, brings together the basic conditions for all children to have the right to develop their potential and succeed. Since 2006, the Convention has been an integral part of the community social pediatrics model, thanks to the perseverance of Hélène (Sioui) Trudel and the social innovation projects created and implemented by her. This model involves cooperation with the legal community and enhances actions by facilitating access to justice.
Why are the rights of the child so important?
In vulnerable communities, an unmet need often hides a right that has been violated. It is important that all of the child’s fundamental rights are respected at every stage—in the assessment of their health, the orientation of services, the implementation of the action plan and the provision of support. To do this, the child must have a voice and play a part in the decision-making process.
Rights at the heart of the care model
The Convention has served as a guide for teams that use mediation, conflict prevention and amicable dispute resolution to overcome impasses and protect the child. This model involves cooperation with the legal community and enhances actions by facilitating access to justice.
The seven key principles of the rights of the child
1. All children are born equal before the law. +-
Children’s growth and development must be assured irrespective of differences. This means that no child should be left behind due to their personal or social characteristics or those of their parents. In a just society, each child must be able to develop fully and freely.
2. The child’s best interests must be the primary consideration in all decisions concerning them. +-
The child must be at the centre of each decision so that their best interests are respected first and foremost. This obligation is incumbent on all individuals and organizations working for the child’s well-being. The child must be listened to and consulted, and their rights and needs considered, because each case is unique.
3. The child is truly involved in decision-making in order to enjoy their civil rights and freedoms. +-
Children must enjoy the rights and freedoms to which every human being is entitled, including identity; freedom of expression, thought, conscience and religion; freedom of association and peaceful assembly; and the right to be informed and to participate. A child is a full-fledged citizen.
4. The child grows up in a loving family supported by the entire community. +-
The entire community must be concerned with families in need in order to better support children. According to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, community is the fundamental unit of society and the natural environment for the growth and well-being of all its members. The family must be given the protection and assistance it needs to be able to play its full role in the community.
5. The right to health at all stages of development. +-
Children must have every opportunity to be born in good health and to develop their full potential. This involves access to medical care, a social circle offering quality services and the right to healthy living conditions necessary for their overall development.
6. The right to learn, play and discover the world. +-
Children have the right to be educated, have fun and discover the world within a healthy environment that respects their culture, beliefs and mother tongue. They have the right to a quality education that is adapted to all of their needs and their environment, with a view to enabling them to thrive, develop their strengths and prepare to assume their responsibilities as adults.
7. The right to be protected. +-
Children have the right to receive special protection; especially those living in difficult conditions. This means being protected from all forms of neglect, abuse or other violence, and from treatment that is cruel and unusual, inhuman or degrading. This responsibility goes beyond the parents, to anyone who has an obligation to the child.