Family life for children in state care

Breen, C., Krutzinna, J., Luhamaa, K., & Skivenes, M. (2020)

NEW ARTICLE: Analysis shows that the status and respect of the child’s de facto family life is increasing.

Societies have long accepted that parents can give up their children to be raised by others, so that de facto responsibility for a child is transferred from the birth parent(s) to another adult(s).

However, when the State interferes with parents’ freedom and authority in child protection situations, for instance by limiting or terminating parental rights due to the interests of the child, controversies on moral, political and legal grounds are raised.

The right to respect for family life

In a new study, Claire Breen, Jenny Krutzinna, Katre Luhamaa and Marit Skivenes examine what set of familial circumstances allow for the justifiable interference with the right to respect for family life under Article 8 ECHR.

They base their article on an analysis of all the European Court of Human Rights judgments on adoptions from care (1959-2018), to find out what the Court means by a ‘family unit’ and the ‘child´s best interest’. The article is published in International Journal of Children’s Rights.

Child-centric direction

The analysis show that there has been a development over time in the court’s reasoning.

– Our findings suggest that the Court regards children as objects rather than subjects and that consideration of ‘family life’ typically has been limited to the rights of parents. However, there have been developments taking the Court in a more child-centric direction, explains professor Marit Skivenes

For example, the Court has gone beyond recognizing de jure family as the ‘only’ family unit that is protected by Article 8, and introduces the child’s de facto family situation as a standard and explicit consideration.

– Focus on the de facto family is an important change in the Court’s focus, signifying that the child’s (and foster parents’) family life is of significance and important to protect, states senior researcher Jenny Krutzinna.

Recognition of children’s de facto family life

The authors conclude that the changes in the Court’s view on and understanding of family for children entail a recognition and stronger protection of children’s non-biological and de facto family life.

The full article is available open access from the link below.

Breen, C., Krutzinna, J., Luhamaa, K., & Skivenes, M. (2020). Family Life for Children in State CareThe International Journal of Children’s Rights.