Also in Switzerland, children’s rights are based on the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. However, ratification is not enough for these rights to be guaranteed. To ensure that the justice system always treats children in a child-friendly manner, the Council of Europe has adopted specific guidelines for child-friendly justice. The goal of child-friendly justice can only be achieved if, in addition to the legal basis, there are specially trained professionals in place to ensure that children’s rights are implemented.
To this end, all professionals who come into contact with children and young people in the legal system should regularly complete the necessary interdisciplinary training courses on the rights and psychosocial needs of minors. This is especially true for professionals who are in direct contact with particularly vulnerable children. For example, children who are traumatised, children who suffer from a mental disorder, children with a disability or children affected by violence and neglect.
Integrating the judiciary with the everyday lives of children
Our legal system touches upon all spheres of life and thus also the everyday lives of all children in Switzerland. In many different areas, children depend on professionals to implement and safeguard their rights, whether these are employees in the school system (teachers, school social workers, special education, school authorities) or specialists in the health sector (paediatricians, consultants, adolescent psychiatrists) or employees of public bodies and institutions (CAPA (KESB), social workers (Beistände), assessment services, victim support, migration authorities, child and youth welfare) or not least the people working in the judicial system itself, such as police officers, youth attorneys, public prosecutors, child legal representatives and judges. All of these professionals have a duty to recognise and apply the rights to which every child is entitled.
For example, the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child describes how all children have the right to be heard and states that every child has the right to express their views freely and according to their age and maturity. The child-friendly justice guidelines of the Council of Europe are likewise clear on the training of professionals: “Training in communication skills, in using child-friendly language and developing knowledge on child psychology, is necessary for all professionals working with children. (…) Children’s rights could and should be part of the curriculum, in schools and in specific fields of higher education (law, psychology, social work, police training, etc.). The curriculum should include the specifics of children’s rights and the legal situation in areas affecting children, such as family law, juvenile law, asylum and immigration law, etc.”
The right training for every specialist
Different kinds of specialist expertise and skills are required depending on the sphere of life in which a specialist is supporting, accompanying and empowering children. While the foundations for these are laid by children’s rights, other competencies such as skills in interviewing children, conflict management, developmental psychology, determining the child’s subjective will, interdisciplinary cooperation with other specialists and dealing with traumatised children are also central, as is a full understanding of one’s own role in the overall picture.
What was true yesterday may be outdated today
Even if professionals have gained the necessary higher qualifications and have a good foundation for their work, child-specific training is frequently lacking. However, this area of training is currently undergoing a major transformation. New research insights into resilience, trauma or children with disabilities necessitate regular advanced training – only then is a child-friendly legal system truly possible. In Switzerland, further training courses and conferences in these fields are offered by technical colleges, universities and specialised institutions.
What further training do you need?
At the Ombuds Office Children’s Rights Switzerland, we are committed to a child-friendly legal system. We list a selection of high-quality further training courses and also facilitate the efficient search for further training opportunities throughout Switzerland. On our website we have created a tool that you can use to narrow down your search for further training opportunities by topic, type, language and region. In our newsletter we regularly inform professionals in the various fields as well as all interested parties about corresponding offers. You can subscribe right away. Thank you for making an important contribution to the protection and promotion of children in Switzerland with your specialist expertise and competent handling of children!