The views or wishes of children should never be assumed or overlooked, and such a process will ultimately help to formulate interventions which are more responsive. Whether investigating abuse, assessing a child’s needs, undertaking permanency planning, or evaluating standards of care, children’s opinions must form an integral part of the decision making process. The appointment of an independent guardian is a safeguard to ensure that the child has a voice and that his or her rights are protected.
The process of encouraging participation requires skill in communicating with children. Children should not be told what to say, intimidated, or judged. An environment of safety and respect is necessary to help the child feel comfortable to express her opinions, and therefore care should be taken regarding who else is present, the physical environment, and the way information is sought.
Children should be given a choice regarding participation, and where possible, parents and caretakers should be fully aware of the consultation process. Confidentiality of information is paramount and children should not be put in danger as a result of expressing their views. It is the responsibility of all professionals involved in the care of children to ensure that the process of participation is safe and that children will have support available where follow-up is necessary.
This section includes guidance on the process for consulting children, and example participation projects.