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Call to action to protect the right to family life and prevent institutionalization for all children

On July 21st 2021, Autism-Europe co-signed the Call to Action to Protect the Right to Family Life and Prevent Institutionalization for All Children alongside other organisations of people with disabilities. Institutions and group settings should not be used as living arrangements, as they have a negative impact on the development of children, regardless of their age. The signatories acknowledge the leadership of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child and of the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in their efforts to harmonize international human rights standards concerning children deprived of parental care.  This call seeks to promote the enforcement of international human rights law in respect of children with disabilities and is open for more endorsement to gain traction internationally.

On September 7th 2021, Autism-Europe attended “Group Homes for Children with Disabilities? Disability Rights Perspectives” Webinar. During the meeting aimed at promoting the Call to action, speakers had the opportunity to explore and analyse the reasons why group homes are a form of institutionalization. Gerard Quinn, UN Special Supporter on the Rights, highlighted the concept of inclusive equality anchored in the idea of personhood based on the Article 19 of CRPD. Gerard Quinn explicitly mentioned: “Group homes are not stepping stone to community living, they are needless, costly and damaging for people with disabilities”. Professor Angharad Backett continued to debate regarding the issue of group homes as alternative care highlighting the absence of research to promote group homes as good practices. A young adult with disabilities who has lived in group homes shared her experiences during the webinar explaining that she had no opportunities when living there, the schedule was too strict and this could never replace family. In the meeting, speakers also had the chance to present and endorse the Call to Action highlighting that no form of institutionalization is acceptable as all children need families.

On the occasion of the “Day of General Discussion on Children’s Rights in Alternative Care”, 16-17 September 2021, the signatories of the Call to Action shared the statement with Ms. Mikiko Itami, Chair of the Committee on the Rights of the Child and Ms. Rosemary Kayess, Chair of the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, on September 15th 2021. One of the main objectives of the Day of General Discussion was to acknowledge that institutions are harmful for every child highlighting the need to reduce the number of children in institutional care.

The Call to Action is now open for endorsements to all organisations supporting children with or without disabilities, their families and professionals working with children. We encourage organisations and individuals advocating for children’s rights or the rights of persons with disabilities in a national or international level to endorse this joint statement. We aim to reach a high number of endorsements so we can robustly push governments and stakeholders to safeguard that children will be living with their families.