Challenges in Changing Legal Structures

18.11.12

Many countries have not developed a system of family court judges, or judges who are trained to address cases of children and families.  As a result, insufficient time is granted to such cases and courts often feel like unfriendly environments for children.  Busy judges often approve the recommendations of social workers without too much probing the details of the case.

In many countries, there is no system to compel different agencies, such as health, the police, social services and education, to work together to protect children.  Procedures for reporting and referring cases of child abuse and neglect are often unclear.  As a result, serious cases of abuse often go undetected or are not addressed quickly enough.  

The response to child abuse can often compound the trauma children suffer.  In many countries, children who have been abused are placed in institutions together with children who have committed serious criminal offences, including violent offences, and other children with behavioural problems.  This can place them at risk of further abuse.

Few countries have developed systems of alternatives to custody for children and young people who commit minor offences.  As a result, they are placed in institutions together with those who have committed serious offences. They are then more likely to reoffend.

In many countries, the legislation and regulation governing the care and protection of children is not harmonised.  Often, many different laws cover issues related to children.  Some articles conflict with each other and there are often gaps in legal provisions.  At times, legislation limits the care that can be provided to children.  For example, some countries have no legal provision for foster care at all, whilst in others, foster care is limited only to children who do not have disabilities.

Children who have been abused are placed in institutions together with children who have committed serious criminal offences, including violent offences, and other children with behavioural problems. This can place them at risk of further abuse.

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