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Right to family

All children have the need and the right to live and grow up with a family. The preamble of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) recognizes that for their “full and harmonious development”, all children “should grow up in a family environment.”

Reflecting the CRC standards, the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) sets out that the best interests of the child are the paramount consideration in all decisions affecting them (Article 7(2)), and places clear obligations on States to protect the right to family life (Article 23) and to live and be included in the community (Article 19).

There are no exceptions to the right to grow up in a family for any child, and the provision of care never justifies the denial of this right.  All children, regardless of disability or social background, have the same right and should be given the same opportunity to have their basic emotional needs met by living and growing up in a family and establishing the emotional bonds necessary for their healthy development. 

In order to implement the right to grow up in a family, States are under the obligation to provide family support to prevent unnecessary break-up of the family. Where States fail to meet their legal obligations to create the family-based support systems necessary to implement the right to family for all children, this is a human rights violation. Nevertheless, the State still has the duty to minimize the physical danger and emotional damage caused by depriving children of the right to family. 

States who fail in these obligations must ensure that any placement of a child in a non-family environment is only a temporary measure and that urgent steps are taken to restore the opportunity for family life.

The need for care, support services, treatment or education can never justify violating a child’s right to family, and deprivation of family life on the basis of disability amounts to discrimination and must be prohibited by law.

For older adolescents making the transition to adulthood, the adolescent may choose to live in a community-based supported living arrangement that is not family-based. Such choice may only be viewed as informed and voluntary, however, if the adolescent is provided support to make an informed decision and after being provided the opportunity to observe, live in, and experience a safe and stable family-based setting with support services appropriate to his or her age, gender, and/or disability.

Autism-Europe’s resources

UN Disability and Child Rights Groups On Behalf of Children without Parental Care Key Recommendations. June 20, 2019.