The Concept of Child Advocacy
The purpose of advocacy is to provide professional assistance to a child to express their opinion in all proceedings and matters involving the child, and to forward the child’s opinion to those competent authorities and institutions which decide on the child’s rights and best interests.
Child advocacy concerns not only the realisation of the requirements of the European Convention on the Exercise of the Children’s Rights, but also the realisation of Article 12 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (hereinafter: the UNCRC). This Convention imposes an obligation on Parties to ensure the child’s right to free opinions and expression of them in all cases in relation to the child.
In 2007, the Advocate - A Child’s Voice pilot project was devised at the proposal of the Ombudsman’s adviser, Mag. Martina Jenkole at the Office of the Human Rights Ombudsman of the Republic of Slovenia (hereinafter: the Ombudsman). The project was used by partners in the project (the Ombudsman, the Ministry of Labour, Family and Social Affairs, Faculty of Social Work and the Legal Information Centre of NGOs – PIC) and representatives of certain other government and non-governmental organisations to check in practice how child advocacy could work in individual proceedings; on this basis, amendments to the Human Rights Ombudsman Act provided a regulatory framework for including child advocacy among the Ombudsman’s regular tasks in 2017.
Professional assistance provided by advocates includes psychosocial support for the child, discussions about their wishes, well-being and opinions, informing the child about proceedings and activities in a manner they understand in accordance with their age and development, seeking the most suitable solution together with the child, and accompanying the child before authorities and institutions which decide on the child’s rights and best interests.