This paper considers the involvement of fathers in decisions about adoption, particularly in circumstances where a mother resists such involvement. It is largely a response to the work of Jill Marshall, who has argued strongly in favour of anonymous birth and adoption for children (without involvement of their fathers) as a choice that can be validly exercised by mothers. The paper argues that Marshall’s views are not obviously consistent with the requirements of Article 5 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, requiring states to ‘respect the responsibilities, rights and duties of parents … to provide … appropriate direction and guidance’ in the child’s exercise of her rights.
Medical research involving child subjects has led to advances in medicine that have dramatically improved the lives, health and well-being of children. Yet, determining when and under what conditions a child should be enrolled in medical research remains an ethically vexing question in research ethics. At the crux of the issue is the free and informed consent of the child participant. A child, who is presumed legally incompetent, or lacks sufficient understanding to exercise autonomous decision-making, will not be able to express free and informed consent in the research setting. Rather than exclude all such children from medical research, a parent (or legal guardian) is designated as a proxy to consent on the child’s behalf. However, the concept of proxy informed consent and the framework for its implementation present practical and ethical challenges for researchers, particularly in navigating the relationship between proxy decision-makers and child subjects in the medical research setting. Article 5 of the uncrc may offer guidance on this point: (1) it places boundaries around how parental authority should be exercised; (2) it offers a model for parent-child decision-making that is participatory, collaborative and linked to the child’s enjoyment of rights under the uncrc; (3) it respects and supports the autonomy of child participants by recognising their evolving capacities to give informed consent. This paper concludes that greater consideration should be given to Article 5 as a complementary framework for researchers engaged in medical research involving children.
This article seeks to reconceptualise approaches to assessing children’s capacity, particularly in light of Article 5 of the crc, which enshrines the principle of the evolving capacities of the child. Professionals regularly assess children’s capacity, for example when doctors treat children, or when lawyers represent child clients. They usually do this assessment intuitively however, as there is little guidance on how assessment should work in practice. Medical law in England and Wales serves as a case study to examine law and practice as well as challenges in the area. It is concluded that it may not necessarily be possible objectively to measure children’s capacity, and it may need to be done intuitively. Yet it should be done via a process which is rights-based. An approach to children’s capacity is proposed through four concepts based on the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child: Autonomy, Evidence, Support and Protection.
How do decision-makers in the judiciary approach children’s capacities as set out in Article 5 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child? Children in public care who cannot be reunified with their birth parents may be adopted, but are children given agency in these cases that are highly important to the involved children? We examine all judgments on adoptions from care made in Norway in a six-year period (2011-2016) involving children aged 4-17 years old, a total of 169 judgments. These cases are decided after a two- to three-day hearing in the court-like County Board. The results of our analysis are discouraging because many children are absent in the decision-maker’s justification and conclusion about adoption. Young children do not have their capacity assessed, and older children’s capacity undergoes a shallow assessment at best, and typically only their opinion is mentioned. Age is commonly used as a proxy for competency and maturity, and the role children’s opinion plays in the cases as well as in the decision-making is unclear overall. Possible explanations for this situation may be lack of guidelines for how to give children agency, that decision-makers do not have sufficient competency in assessing children’s capabilities, and/or that decision-makers are not aware of their obligations or are not willing to give children agency.
While Article 5 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child requires states to respect parents’ responsibilities to provide ‘appropriate’ direction and guidance to their children, Article 18 also proclaims that ‘the best interests of the child will be [the parents’] basic concern’. But how can this be done if, as is widely accepted, the “best interests” standard is too indeterminate safely to allow courts to substitute their assessment of children’s interests for those of a child’s parents? This reason for privatising such decisions has been reinforced by concerns over the extent of public expenditure on court involvement in and legal aid for such issues, with the possible result of withdrawal of the law from this process. This article argues that there are inherent risks in leaving the arrangements for children of separating parents entirely in the hands of the parents, and considers various ways in which such risks might be reduced.
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child sets the gold standard for the rights of children and young people, placing the obligation on States parties to ensure their realisation. Since most children live in families, recognising their rights has implications for other family members, particularly their parents.
Article 5 creates a framework for balancing the rights and obligations of the parties – the child, the parents and the state – in this triangular relationship, requiring States parties to respect the right of parents to direct and guide the child in the exercise of Convention rights. Yet other Convention provisions address the parties’ roles, calling into question the need for Article 5.
This article sets the scene for those that follow in this issue, exploring what the drafters of the Convention were seeking to achieve in Article 5 and highlighting issues that proved controversial, before focussing on the work of the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child to drill down into its content and address its place in the Convention.
Article 5 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (uncrc) is a pivotal children’s rights provision, which recognises the ‘responsibilities, rights and duties of parents’ to provide ‘appropriate direction and guidance’ to the child in the exercise of his/her rights, in a manner consistent with ‘the evolving capacities of the child’. Underpinning children as holders of rights, Article 5 bridges the gap between children who require parental support to exercise their rights and those who are capable of exercising them on their own behalf. There has been limited consideration of Article 5 to date and even less in specific contexts like juvenile justice. The uncrc has particular relevance to children in conflict with the law where issues of criminal responsibility, capacity and the role of parents are central. This article explores the application of Article 5 by querying the relevance of the principle of “evolving capacities” to children in conflict with the law and to the exercise of children’s rights in the criminal justice system. It considers what role, if any, ‘the responsibilities, rights and duties’ of parents have in such proceedings while addressing, more generally, whether Article 5 adds value to the child’s rights approach to youth justice.
Article 5 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child recognises the importance of parents and wider family members in ensuring that children are given appropriate directions on their rights in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. This paper analyses the wording of Article 5 and four New Zealand case studies to test the possible interpretations of Article 5. The paper builds on the work of Landsdown and Kamchedzera (Landsdown, 2005; ) who have done previous comprehensive analyses of the ambit and significance of the wording in Article 5. Article 5, like all international instruments, is not designed to provide prescriptive answers to challenging problems where there is a clash of which rights should prevail for children in particular situations. The central theme of this paper is that where there is a clash of a child’s rights, the tiebreaker should be which right in the particular situation will best enhance the unique identity of a particular child. The paper draws on the work of Ronen () which argues that the purpose of a child’s rights framework is so the child can construct their individualised identity which is authentic and real for that particular child. The New Zealand case studies have been chosen to exemplify particular aspects of Article 5 and see how they are played out in particular court settings and whether the outcome enhances or inhibits the child’s opportunity to develop their unique identity.