Empowering children and young people

Rights of children and young people

The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child recognises that children and young people have a right to voice their views and to have their views taken seriously when decisions are made that affect them (CCYP 2018).Children and young people offer unique perspectives and insights that can help shape their environment and the services and programs in which they participate.

A rights-based approach to working with children and young people which respects and listens to children and young people establishes the foundation for an organisation’s child safety efforts.

Children and young people as partners 

Traditional conceptualisations of children and young people represent a diminished view of their capacity to contribute to their safety (Moore 2017). Children have previously been described as a ‘blank slate’ or a ‘sponge’ waiting to absorb information or been encouraged to ‘be seen but not heard’ with an expectation that they are passive recipients and that adults always know ‘what is best’ (NSW Commission for Children and Young People 2001). As our understanding of children’s cognitive, emotional and physical development has advanced, so too must organisations recognise and accommodate the agency of children and young people. Moore encourages organisations to move beyond ‘limiting notions of children and childhood’ (2017, p. 2)

Just as Jesus saw children and young people as having a special place in the Kingdom of God, parishes, agencies and entities must elevate the role of children and young people as active participants and partners.

Within a parish, agency or entity context, an effective ‘partnership’ is supported by an organisational culture which encourages the participation and involvement of children and young people in decisions that impact them (NSW Commission for Children and Young People 2001).

Article 12.1 of the Convention states: 

parties shall assure to the child who is capable of forming his or her own views the right to express those views freely in all matters affecting the child, the views of the child being given due weight in accordance with the age and maturity of the child.

Children have the right to give their views and opinions about decisions that affect them and to be listened to. (CCYP n.d.)

The child is already a partner of God. (Catholic Education South Australia 2015, p.7)

Empowerment and participation is not a one-off event – it is an approach that needs to be part of your organisational culture. (CCYP n.d.)