Every child has the right to grow up in the care of parents or guardians. However, there are circumstances under which a child can be separated from their family and placed in the custody of another person or authority. According to article 11 of law relating to the protection of the child, such circumstances include domestic violence, mistreatment, inability to provide education due to mental disability, and being deprived of parental authority.
Any child who faces violence, mistreatment or lack of access to education due to mental disability has the right to report to the nearest authority. This is according to article 12 of that law. Any person who is aware of child mistreatment has the obligation to report it.
Article 13 outlines the procedure for placement of a child. First, the national organ in charge of children collects information about the acts of violence or mistreatments committed against the child. Using the gathered information, the organ may request permission from court and once the permission is granted, take the child away from his/her family. The child may be placed with another family or in a social welfare institution. In some cases, for instance, where the health of the child is at risk, a child may be taken away before a court decision is made.
A child has the right to attend court proceedings aimed at separating him/her from his/her family. This is according to article 14 of the law relating to the protection of the child. Furthermore, the child can give his/her opinion directly or through a psychologist, a psychosocial assistant or any adult of his/her choice.
Even when a child has been placed in custody of another person or party, he/she has the right to maintain a personal relationship with his/her family and contact his/her parents, relatives or guardians. According to article 15 of that law, this is only applicable if it does not interfere with the best interests of the child.
According to article 16, when a child is separated from his/her family, he/she is placed in a foster family.
Article 17 says that a child can also be placed in a social welfare institution. This happens if the child has not yet found a foster home, if the child is born in prison and at three years of age none of his/her relatives has accepted to receive him/her, or if he/she is a refugee and is yet to be assigned a shelter.
The constitution of Rwanda recognises family as the foundation of society and as such, values its existence. Thus, separation of a child from his parents or guardians is not to be done carelessly.