Here are notes from the last meeting of the Children's Participation Group. there are 8 of us in this group and all of us work in international development with a particular focus on the participation of children and young people. This month the topic we focused on was The Risks to Children and Young People from Participation.
We began the discussion by reminding ourselves of the tools that already exist to help guide organisations and individuals who wish to strengthen of develop participation of children and young people. Links to ethical guidelines (or participation resources containing ethical guidelines) can be found at the bottom of the note to this meeting.
Some of the ideas for keeping children and young people safe and reducing risk that may arise from participation are as follows:
- To ensure that organisations working with children and young people have policies and procedures relating to safeguarding and child protection in place and ensure that these are current, up to date and compressive enough to protect children and young people.
- We should ensure that children and young people are consulted on processes for keeping them safe in a way that allows their perspective the risks they feel they may face to be incorporated into procedures and along with their views on what could be done about it. A very practical example was given about children being consulted on the logistics of their journey to and accommodation at a participatory workshop. Some of the issues these children faced were risk of attack on the way to the event, the sleeping areas for boys and girls, adults and children.
- One of the blocks to promoting children’s participation is that adult say its too risky. Therefore it useful to get perspective from children on this. For example, consulting children on logistics or the participatory activities themselves. It sets the tone and expected practice.
- The consultative process needs to be done in an age appropriate and careful way so as not to create anxiety. The impact of the type of questions and tools used to support children and young peoples participation needs to be thought through.
- Children and young people need to be made aware of an organisations child protection policies. In addition, there needs to be an appointed child protection lead. Then children are encouraged to report to this person (or use the process outlined in the organisations procedures) if they have any concerns. The lead person needs to be appropriately trained and gender issues taken into account.
- A distinction needs to be made between safeguarding (creating safe environments/practice) and child protection (physical abuse, neglect).
- We need to recognise that participation is a means to enhance children's self protection - children who have no voice can be targeted for abuse.
- Children and young people are not a homogenous group and what may work for one group may not work for others. We had an example of where young people felt hostile to work younger children were doing on conflict and conflict resolution.
- One problem about trying to understand the when’s of children’s participation is that developmental psychology theory has a different stance. For example - Piaget, a central representative of 'childdevelopment' can be a start for discussion; main obstacle in his research is that the stages of development are quite fixed.
- There are many theories. However we thought that it may be useful if we could work together as a group to update theory on the evolving capacities of the child.
- We need to support children who are enabled within a workshop setting to consider how this enhanced skills or increased voice may have an in the ‘real’ world. We need to do this to ensure that they don’t put themselves at risk. This can be hard and especially for children who are especially vulnerable or marginalized and who could be left at grater risk as a result of a project and once the project has ended.
- Save the Children Sweden has explored the balance of protection and participation and risks involved. This is documented in an SCS report called 'CultivatingParticipation' available here: https://resourcecentre.savethechildren.se/content/library/documents/participation-virtue-must-be-cultivated.
- It’s also important to inform children and young how the information they generate will be used. Any information given to children must be in a child friendly format.
- These are sometimes ethical issues around adult agencies approaching children to get information and ideas from them, but lacking the willingness to respond to children’s own agenda.
- We talked about the potential to over consult with some groups of children – checks need to be made regarding who has worked with the children before and why and how this information was used.
- Check that CP is inclusive and the risks to vulnerable children if they are excluded. Risks can be straightforward or more complex e.g. risks to mental health, self-esteem etc. (sorry not sure i understand this and cant remember what we were talking about here)
- Risk of overburdening children to participate and create a situation where due to social desirability children don't dare to refuse to participation.
- We need to prepare people to work with children. If working with teachers we need to build in an awareness on the distinctions between teaching and facilitating participatory work with children. A reelection that even when our colleagues KNOW what and how they should do – how easy it is to slip inadvertently into behaviour that they maybe inappropriate but which just come up.
- Its important to realise that working with children in a participatory way can be a huge step for some adults who never experienced this as children or were taught how to practice it as adults.
- Reflective practice for practitioners is an important place to start. In places where there are deep inequities the ideas that underpin participation are highly challenging to implement and needs developing over the medium/long term.
- The best facilitators are often the younger people who have a natural rapport with children. Its important to be alert to natural talent and to nurture and support them with continues training, development and other professional support.
- Maybe we need a checklist of criteria for people who are suitable of this work? Involving children in recruitment is useful where possible.
News from Children’s Participation Group Members
We are all doing such varied and interesting work. This includes:
- Child participation in Health and SMS messaging
- CYP participation in health service design and delivery
- CP and how poverty/low income impacts on disabled children’s rights (mainly social, economic and cultural rights)
- Helping to set up a counselling group run by children for other children, https://www.crc15.org/
- CP and M&E work – Oak foundation project – forthcoming seminars and developing ideas around creating a digital hub for M&E work in CP
- Involving CYP in design of organisational assessments using qualitative and quantitative approaches
- Internal youth mapping
- Regional analysis on community based child protection mechanisms supported by Plan in Asia;
- Engaged in M&E of children's participation (Oak funded) pilots with forthcoming webinars;
- Preparing for global advocacy with and by children's and young people's representatives on children, youth and peace building in New York in early September;
- Preparing training modules on child rights governance and humanitarian practice.
- Working on a paper concerning a life cycle approach to children, adolescent and youth participation in peace building
- Looking into the world bank’s lifecycle approach 10 + years
Possible actions formulating from the group:
We seem to often return to a need for more clarity or tips on how to use in practice the evolving capacity of child framework and understand how this has changed over time and across cultures. We spoke about looking at reports developed by Bernard Van Leer, on materials that have been developed on peace building and relayed to this. We agreed it would be great to trace a theory of change with children and young people.
Links to ethical guides to children and young people's participation
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