One of the important aspects of a child’s identity is having family relations. This is recognised under Article 8 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. For this reason, a child shall not be illegally deprived of his/her family relations. If this happens, countries which signed the convention (State Parties) are obliged to provide the necessary assistance and protection to ensure that this bit of the child’s identity is speedily restored.
Article 9 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child says that State Parties shall “ensure that a child shall not be separated from his or her parents against their will.” The exception to this rule is when separating a child from his/her parents is in the child’s best interest as determined by judicial review.
Examples of instances when it is best to separate parents and their children are abuse and neglect by parents. A child may also be separated from one or both parents if they are living apart. If this is the case, a careful decision has to be made on the child’s place of residence, giving a chance to everyone involved to air their views.
A child who is separated from one or both parents has the right to maintain a relationship and personal contact on a regular basis unless it is not in the child’s best interests.
If separation of a child from his/her parents is due to imprisonment, exile, deportation, death or any other reason, article 9 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, says that State Parties shall, if requested, provide information on the whereabouts of the absent parent. However, such information can be withheld if it interferes with the well-being of the child.
To promote continued family unity, article 10 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child says that State Parties shall deal with applications by a child or parents to enter or leave a country for family reunification in a positive, human and speedy way.
Furthermore, article 10 says that a child and his/her parents have the right to leave any country including their own. This is in the spirit of ensuring that the child has regular contact with his or her parents. The enforcement of such a law has to put into consideration national security, public order, public health morals, and rights and freedoms of other people.
Due to the existence of child trafficking and illegal adoptions which separate children from their families, article 11 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child says that State Parties have an obligation to fight against illegal transfer and non-return of children abroad.