Sixteen leading international humanitarian agencies and children's rights organisations have joined together to offer a new online course dedicated to responding to the needs and rights of unaccompanied and separated children.
Launching today (Friday 12 April) for learners to register on the FutureLearn platform, Caring for Children Moving Alone: Protecting Unaccompanied and Separated Children will begin on Monday 27 May 2019.
The free, six-week online course is available to anyone, wherever they are in the world, and is offered in four languages: English, French, Spanish and Arabic.
The course specifically focuses on the importance of considering the needs of unaccompanied and separated children and young people on the move, their circumstances and wishes.
Providing learning through the insight of international expertise and real world experience, it has been created with the support of members of the Geneva-based Taskforce for Children on the Move, comprised of international agencies who work together on initiatives to promote the protection and care of children around the world: Better Care Network; CELCIS; Global Partnership to End Violence Against Children; Hope and Homes for Children (HHC); International Detention Coalition (IDC); International Federation of Educative Communities (FICE); International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC); International Federation of Social Workers (IFSW); International Organisation on Migration (IOM); International Social Service (ISS); Latin American Foster Care Network (RELAF); Save the Children; SOS Children's Villages International; Terre des hommes (TdH); United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR); and United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF).
The course is sponsored by the Taskforce to enable all learners to achieve a certificate of the completion of their learning free of charge.
Produced by CELCIS – the Centre for Excellence for Children's Care and Protection - at the University of Strathclyde and delivered through FutureLearn, the course is designed for front line workers, volunteers, policy makers and others who have a responsibility and interest in protecting and promoting appropriate care for unaccompanied and separated children, to address any gaps in the knowledge, skills and capacities they may have.
The course will equip learners with an understanding of how to discern and respond to the needs, circumstances and wishes of these children as well as those at risk of separation. This includes resources and information to support prevention of family/primary caregiver separation; prevention of unnecessary placement of a child in alternative care; and, when such care is necessary, ensuring the availability of suitable alternative care.
To produce the course, alongside a number of advisors and contributors, Harvard FXB Center for Health and Human Rights provided strategic advice and review of the course content.
The creation of course received significant funding from the government of Switzerland (Swiss Confederation), the government of Germany (German Cooperation), and Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ).
Professor Jennifer Davidson, Executive Director of CELCIS, said:
"Some of the world's youngest citizens are facing the greatest adversities; meeting their care and protection needs is a daily responsibility of people in public and voluntary services across the globe. We're delighted to be able to work alongside leading international humanitarian agencies to provide this new practical learning, to help support those working with children and young people to better realise children's rights and improve their life chances."
"Around the world, thousands of children are travelling across and between borders as unaccompanied and separated children. There are important international standards and policies in place across the world, including principles and commitments agreed to under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child; UN Guidelines for the Alternative Care of Children; and the Global Compacts on Migration and on Refugees. The guidance in the course takes these into account and helps learners to understand how to work in ways that implement the aims and aspirations of such commitments." Verena Knaus, Senior Migration Advisor, UNICEF.
"Unaccompanied and separated children are especially vulnerable to violence, abuse and exploitation, yet struggle to find or access the assistance they need," says Elhadj As Sy, Secretary General of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. "Their protection will remain high on our agenda, and we must strengthen our capacity to keep them safe."
"Children's rights are universal - they do not stop at borders or in countries of transit and destination." Rory Truell, Secretary General of International Federation of Social Workers.
"We are grateful to all those who have come together to contribute to and support this new learning resource which offers a vital, unique opportunity to equip all those working in the best interests of some of the most vulnerable children and young people." Jean Ayoub, Secretary General, International Social Service.
"As 2019 is the 10th UN Guidelines for the Alternative Care of Children, and the 30th Anniversary of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child" - Bill Bell, Director of Child Protection and Child Rights Governance, Save the Children says "the timing of this course not be more appropriate or urgent."
"Different countries may respond to the needs of unaccompanied and separated children in different ways, but the concern for children on the move is a global one." Olivier Feneyrol, The Head of Terre des hommes Program Children and Youth in Migration.
"This course really emphasises the importance of inter-sectoral working and delivery of alternative care within national child protection systems." Amanda Melville, Senior Advisor, Child Protection and Youth, Department of International Protection, UNHCR.
Lead Educator for the course, Dr Chrissie Gale, CELCIS's International Lead explained:
"At the heart of this course is the central question: 'What could care workers do better to support unaccompanied and separated children?'
"The truly dynamic content of this course is informed by the expertise and first-hand experience of young people, professionals, volunteers, and academics from a host of leading international organisations and institutions.
"Through this course learners will be able to learn at their own pace and share ideas, concerns and examples of good practice with other learners across the world."
Using a combination of written and original video content, the course includes examples of real-life circumstances and of promising practice in Mexico, Ethiopia and Sicily, and a fictionalised story to take learners through the application of the new learning they acquire as the course unfolds.