What are the necessity and suitability principles?
An important document to keep in mind when supporting vulnerable children is the Guidelines for the Alternative Care of Children which builds on the UN’s Convention on the Rights of the Child. These two principles should applied in order to provide a baseline assessment if a child’s care setting should be changed.
The necessity principle
IS IT NECESSARY FOR A CHILD TO BE IN ALTERNATIVE CARE?
Review the caseload of children within your program and determine if there needs to be a change in their care setting. If the child is in residential care or foster care, could that child be safely returned to family? For children that are already in family based care, is it possible to prevent potential separation by providing support to the child and family?
Primary prevention means ensuring that children have those necessary services which are in accordance with human rights. Such services include education, food security, health and medical treatment, and access to the legal system.
Enhance a safety net for children and families that are in need of additional support such as support groups and counseling services.
Prevention can be extended even after a child has changed care settings. Such actions can prevent further breakdown and prepare for an eventual reunification. Regardless of the child’s situation, ongoing support must be made to help the child in their setting.
The suitability principle
IS THE ALTERNATIVE CARE SETTING SUITABLE FOR THE CHILD BEING PLACED?
If the child has had to enter care outside of their family of origin, is it suitable to that particular child’s needs? The suitability principle advises a case by case decision making process for children to determine their best care setting. Practitioners should use the suitability principle to determine as quickly as possible the most suitable family setting for children.
Not all residential care facilities have the same quality of care. For some children, they might receive better service in residential care in regards to food security or access to health care. In other facilities, children might have reduced access to even basic necessities and would be better served in a more suitable family setting.
There are different forms of foster care and many countries rely on informal types of foster care. While very common, organizations should engage informal, unregulated foster care with caution. Emphasizing a safe practice of placement, finding suitable foster families can be one of your best opportunities to meet a child’s need. If starting a foster care operation, emphasize training of foster families, child protection and trauma-informed care. To hear how various organizations have started foster care throughout the world, you can learn more through this podcast episode.