Guardianship training in Europe: towards a rights-based and person-centred approach
DCI/ISS Italy collaborated as contractor with the EU Fundamental Rights Agency and partners to develop the EU training programme for guardians of unaccompanied children.
At the beginning of March 2023, the EU Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA) published the EU Trainers Manual for guardians of unaccompanied children, complemented by a web-based training and learning platform and the Guardianship Wheels, a systemic and interactive online resource centre for guardianship training.
The Trainers Manual is structured as follows:
- Chapter 1 introduces the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and its general principles as the main reference for guardianship services. It guides the trainer in sensitising guardians to the meaning of the Convention as a legal document and the opportunities it offers as a practical guide for analysing the needs and rights of the child from a multidisciplinary and transcultural perspective. The participants learn to assess the risks and resilience of a child in relation to the child’s background, migration story, current situation and perspectives in the country of arrival.
- Chapter 2 prepares guardians to apply the rights of the child in practice. It introduces specific tasks of the guardian and trains guardians in gaining confidence in their role as advocates for the child who act as a link between the child and relevant state agencies and services. Guardians learn to appreciate the complexity of services and proceedings and obtain knowledge about referral mechanisms and how to activate them for the child.
- Chapter 3 proceeds with training on case assessment, decision-making processes and formal procedures concerning the child from the moment of arrival in a country through to the identification and implementation of a durable solution. The chapter provides step-by-step guidance on the guardian’s role in these formal assessments, decisions and procedures.
- Chapter 4 focuses on the regulatory and supportive framework for guardians of unaccompanied children and explores questions related to ethical standards and accountability. The training concludes with an exploration of the support network that guardians can or should be able to count on when exercising their complex and challenging tasks.
The EU training and learning programme for guardians of unaccompanied children promotes the rights of the child as a guiding framework for guardianship training and services. The training approach is rooted in international and European standards, in particular the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and EU law. It prepares guardians to adopt a child rights lens when analysing situations, assessing the needs of the child and advocating for the child. In this way, the training conveys knowledge on the rights of the child and skills in working with a child rights-based perspective.
The training programme empowers guardians to position themselves as advocates for the rights and best interests of the child. A transdisciplinary approach develops advocacy skills of guardians in relation to all the different state officials and service providers who are in contact with the child. The training sensitises guardians to the strengths and weaknesses in national child protection and reception systems. It provides them with tools for assessing the impact that any limitations or weaknesses of these systems may have on the child. The aim is to prepare guardians for assuming an independent and impartial role when positioning themselves as advocates for the child.
Recognising the uniqueness of each guardian and each child, the diversity of contexts in which guardianship services operate, and the multi-dimensional problems that guardians and children may encounter, the training programme encourages guardians to seek and mobilise support for the child and the guardian. It likewise encourages trainers to work in a multidisciplinary team combining different professional backgrounds and areas of expertise.
In view of the diversity of national, cultural and social backgrounds of guardians and children, the training supports guardians in developing transcultural sensitivity and competence. It encourages communication, interaction and listening between the trainees and trainer(s) and fosters resource-based, empowering communication and personal interaction as important foundations for guardianship services and training.
Overall, the training approach is person-centred and promotes an interactive and explorative learning process. It deliberately aspires to go beyond the assimilation of existing knowledge and to engage the trainees and trainer(s) in developing new knowledge together in a process of individual and collective personal development. To this end, the training engages participants in biographic narrative exercises as a recurring element throughout the training programme. This exercise aims to help trainees connecting to the learning content not only based on their professional roles but also in light of their personal stories and experiences.
These methodological considerations foster synergy between training approach, methods and contents and empower guardianship trainers to use the rights of the child not only as legal standards but also as a guide for a child rights-based and person-centred training pathway. The training aims to prepare guardians of unaccompanied children for their complex and challenging tasks. Its orientation towards international standards and EU law makes the training programme universally applicable throughout the EU while embracing the diversity of guardianship services and reception systems of Member States.
The Manual builds on previous work of the EU Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA) in this field, in particular the handbook and research on guardianship systems in EU Member States, research on unaccompanied children and specific aspects of the asylum procedure such as relocation and return of children. The legal handbooks issued by the EU Fundamental Rights Agency, such as the Handbook on the rights of the child and the Handbook on European law relating to asylum, border and immigration, as well as FRA training manuals in other thematic fields have informed the development of the Manual.