This week we wanted to shine a spotlight on a charity that does valuable work to give the most vulnerable children in society a voice, and which has this week announced two new initiatives that further its mission. That charity is Coram, which started as a foundling hospital established in London by Captain Thomas Coram in 1739. Its focus is still on working for better lives for children and young adults at risk, and one of its areas of focus is children who need access to justice – a subject particularly close to our hearts.
The first of Coram’s announcements this week is that it is part of an exhibition taking place at the Central Family Court in London called ‘Respected and Protected – The Rights of Children’, which opens tomorrow, 19 January 2017. The Central Family Court is the largest court of family proceedings in England and Wales, and a very fitting place for such an exhibition, which shows the development of children’s rights under four strands: identity, education, work, and military service.
The charity explains that “The vision behind the exhibition is to inform the wider public about the history and significance of children’s rights up to the present day and the role of the Central Family Court, and to encourage the development of new cross-sector relationships and the resolve to bring about lasting change.” The exhibition highlights the progress made in education and life chances for children over the last few centuries, and aims to help people understand the role of access to justice in continuing that journey. It is open to the public between 10 and 4.30pm at the court on High Holborn in London, and we’ll certainly be dropping in when we’re next in the area.
The second new initiative is the launch of a website focusing entirely on children’s legal rights. Law Stuff is cleanly designed and full of no-nonsense facts about children’s positions in law. It is aimed squarely at children and young people, but adults may also find it interesting because of the sheer breadth of information it contains on everything from the role of children’s services when children are at risk, to educational rights, and private family law matters where parents disagree about what should happen about children’s care.
The section on ‘home and family’ may be particularly good for older children who want information about the legal processes their parents may be going through in divorce. The golden rule, when parents are separating and can’t agree about arrangements for the future, is to do your best as parents to ensure that disagreements are kept away from the children, and they are protected from conflict no matter what age they are. Where young children will need love, reassurance and gentleness as their parents disengage, older children will need all these things and also, often, information about what is happening. Parents often find it difficult to talk objectively about a process that can be highly stressful, so having an independent and impartial resource available for older children to look at can be very helpful.
Coram’s other Child Law resources are also worth knowing about. The family section on its main website covers a wide selection of issues including parental relationship breakdown and circumstances when children need to be looked after outside the birth family unit. The ‘attending court’ section takes a reader through a family court hearing about a children’s matter, and its examples of Child Arrangements Orders and other important documents are useful for those in the system without legal representation. The site can help parents understand whether they may need to instruct a solicitor or barrister, and it has a full, impartial explanation of what family mediation is, its benefits and drawbacks, and its place in the system.
Coram’s ‘How to’ guides are also useful, and cover both educational and family court matters. These are a paid-for resource, and a valuable source of income for a worthwhile charity facing an uncertain economic future. If you can spare a few quid, they rely largely on grants and donations to keep their work going and you can donate by clicking here.
We do our best to put children’s interests first in all we do as family lawyers. If you’ve got any questions about children’s place in the family law system or any other family law issue, you can call us on 01223 443333 to make an appointment to speak to Sue, Gail, Simon, Tricia or Adam.