The findings and legacy of the Child-friendly Justice in Action! (CFJ-IA) project
The partners resolved to research the ‘child-friendliness’ of judicial proceedings involving particularly vulnerable groups of children: children on the move. In Italy, Spain, Netherlands, Greece and France, the research focused on the experience of unaccompanied children, whereas in Belgium, in light of an abundance of research already existing for this group, colleagues focused on the experience of accompanied children instead. In Czech Republic, given the relatively low prevalence of unaccompanied children effectively seeking asylum in the country, colleagues decided to turn their attention to the administrative proceedings children whose parents are divorcing may find themselves involved in. In all countries, partners sought to understand whether children’s procedural rights (such as the right to be heard, right to participate, or right to information) were guaranteed throughout their experience.
All partners followed a common methodology to lead the research, which took place in two phases. Firstly, a total of 113 professionals across the 7 countries completed a questionnaire, inviting them to describe their knowledge, understanding and application of child-friendly justice principles in their day-to-day work involving children. In a second phase, around 30 children took part in workshops and interviews to describe their experience of the proceedings they took part in and share recommendations. The findings were further completed by desk-based research in each of the partners’ country, with the view to highlight bottlenecks but also good practices found among professionals when dealing with children during administrative proceedings.
The findings of the project are summarised in national reports (in the national language and translated to English) as well as in a consolidated European report, highlighting trends and key recommendations to improve the implementation of Child-friendly Justice principles in Europe. The document can be used as an advocacy tool for human and children’s rights organisations when addressing key stakeholders. The project further produced a Toolkit for Professionals, designed as a “registry” of good practices, tips and useful resources to support professionals in mainstreaming child-friendly principles into their work. Finally, the project has compiled a short document capturing the Voices of Children interviewed, through compelling quotes highlighting their experiences of the asylum hearing procedures during their journey of migration.
As the Council of Europe Child-friendly Justice guidelines are just celebrating their 10th anniversary, it is obvious that important gaps in knowledge and practice remain to be filled. The CFJ-IA project aims to contribute in raising awareness of this valuable resource and the ongoing efforts needed to ensure all children experience a justice system that is truly adapted to their needs.