You can be child-centred simply by following five steps, making decisions that are in children's best interests
How to answer these questions:
To answer this, you need to consider how the outcome of your decision could affect the things children need to thrive and what they have a right to. Below are some questions to get you started, and you can read the resources about Child Impact Assessments for more detailed systems.
Ask: how could your decision affect any or all of these things children need to thrive?
- A sense of identity and belonging – will your decision affect children’s ability to maintain a positive connection to their culture?
- A stable, nurturing family - will your decision support good parenting, keep children connected with their family/whānau, and promote attachment to the important people in their lives?
- A supportive community - will your decision affect children’s access to, or the quality of, recreation and play facilities? Will it have an impact on community organisations that help children and their carers?
- Adequate income - will your decision affect family income and the ability to meet children’s basic needs? This includes making sure children have enough time with their parents, and meeting physical needs such as their own bed, warmth, and nutritious food.
- An education - will your decision affect children’s ability to access education that helps them develop to their full potential?
- Adequate health - will your decision impact on children’s health either positively or negatively? Will it improve access to health care, e.g. reduce barriers to attending primary and secondary care, or support home visits for babies? Could it affect the physical or mental health of children or adolescents?
- A safe, healthy home - will your decision affect the safety or quality of children’s homes? Will it keep children safe from cold, damp homes that can make them sick? Does your decision ensure housing for children is adequate with stable tenure?
- A safe environment - will your decision affect children’s access to clean water or air quality, a safe built environment and safe consumer products?
This list is based on a body of evidence that shows the importance of these areas for children's wellbeing. Using this list should enable you to assess the impacts on children in a holistic way.
Different groups of children can be affected differently by a policy or process. Sometimes differential impact is intentional, for example when a group is targeted to mitigate disadvantage. Other times, impacts are unintentional, and could be discriminatory.
You can explicitly ask: how will the decision affect children based on their characteristics, such as: age, ethnicity, gender, disability, sexual identity, or socioeconomic status? (This list is not exhaustive). You can also consider whether your decision will impact children of parents with different characteristics differently - such as parents with a disability, or a parent in prison.
To answer this question, we suggest thinking as widely and creatively as you can.
Consultation can illuminate issues you may not think of yourself:
- Ask those affected, for example disabled children
- Consult organisations who work with the populations, for example LGBTI support groups, disabled people's organisations
- Consult professionals who work with children, e.g. advocates, lawyers or social workers (who can talk about general issues)
- Use your relationships and networks and ask communities for input
Undertake research or use existing data
- Look up existing reports on analyses of impacts on different groups of children - the SUPERU hub has a repository of reports commissioned by government agencies that is searchable
- Conduct research that can show differential impacts
- Use official statistics, e.g. StatsNZ
- Commission research from private organisations or tertiary education organisations
Listening to children's views and using them to inform your decision making is an important part of being child-centred. We have resources in Listening2Kids designed to help you engage with children.
You should first look up existing reports on what children have said on a topic, so you are not asking children the same things or replicating existing research. You could start with:
- What children tell us at the Office of the Children's Commissioner
Close the loop with the children involved in any engagement to let them know what you heard them say, and how those voices have, or will, affect your decision-making or advice (see step 5 below).
To make child-centred decisions you need to bring everything you've learned from answering the first three questions together and apply the knowledge.
Once you know:
- if and how the policy affects children (what are the likely impacts, positive and negative)
- whether there are differential impacts
- what children think about it
Then you can use the answers along with your professional judgement, input from others, expert knowledge and evidence, and make decisions that:
- maximise positive impacts on children and
- eliminate or minimise negative consequences.
Tell people you have done a process that considered impacts on children - publish your reports or analyses.
Make sure children know how their views affected the outcome, why the decision was reached (if necessary, explaining why their preference couldn’t be accommodated), and what to expect next. Children are able to comprehend that sometimes their preference or choice is not in the best interest of all children, so you can be honest about how a decision was made.
Doing this step has reputational benefits for you, as well as being empowering for the children - developing their sense of self-worth, civic participation and self advocacy skills.
It is important to feedback in a timely manner, since children experience time differently from adults. A couple of months for a child can feel like years for an adult. So this may well not be the 'final' step, but one you complete before your final report from Action 4 above.
When you feedback, do so in a fun way. Make it engaging for the children. Use plain language and creativity, appropriate for the age and abilities of the children. Short reports or displays, well-written or produced, are useful to communicate decision-making to all people, not just children.
The OCC reports children's and young people's voices on the page: What children tell us.