COUNCIL OF EUROPE
COMMITTEE OF MINISTERS
of the Committee of Ministers to member states
on child day-care
(Adopted by the Committee of Ministers on 18 September 2002
at the 808th meeting of the Ministers’ Deputies)
The Committee of Ministers, under the terms of Article 15.b of the Statute of the Council of Europe,
Considering the European Convention on Human Rights and recalling, in particular, the right to respect for private and family life as defined in Article 8;
Considering both the European Social Charter and the revised European Social Charter, in particular those articles concerning the protection of the family and of children;
Having regard to the recommendations of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe: Recommendation 751 (1975) on the position and responsibility of parents in the modern family and their support by society; Recommendation 1071 (1988) on child welfare – providing institutional care for infants and children; Recommendation 1074 (1988) on family policy; Recommendation 1121 (1990) on the rights of children; Recommendation 1286 (1996) on a European strategy for children; and Recommendation 1551 (2002) on Building a twenty-first century society with and for children: follow-up to the European strategy for children (Recommendation 1286 (1996));
Bearing in mind its own recommendations: Recommendation No. R (81) 3 concerning the care and education of children from birth to the age of eight; Recommendation No. R (84) 24 on the contribution of social security to preventive measures; Recommendation No. R (94) 14 on coherent and integrated family policies; Recommendation No. R (96) 5 on reconciling work and family life; and Recommendation No. R (98) 8 on children’s participation in family and social life;
Taking note of the final communiqué of the XXVIIth Session of the Conference of European Ministers responsible for Family Affairs held in Portoroz, Slovenia in 2001 on the theme of reconciling working and family life;
Bearing in mind the conclusions of the Council of Europe Childhood Policy project (1992-1996) and the Council of Europe Programme for Children (1998-2000), and in particular the part of the programme’s consolidated report concerning children and child day-care;
Taking into account the central importance of children’s rights as they are enshrined in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, and in particular Article 3 of the convention which states that “In all actions concerning children (….) the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration”, and its Article 12 which states that "State Parties shall assure to the child (…) the right to express (…) views freely in all matters affecting the child";
Drawing attention to the fact that children today grow up in a society which has undergone profound changes, and in which there is a greater awareness than before of children as individuals with their own rights;
Noting that children are directly affected by these changes in society, such as modifications in family structures, the increased participation of mothers in the labour market, the consequences of growing up in multicultural societies, and population movements within and between states;
Taking into account that child day-care must respond appropriately to the needs of children, which include the need to be able to grow up and develop according to their own capacities and to receive acknowledgement for that, the need for security, stability and confidence in their environment and their relationships, and the need for unconditional love and acceptance;
Convinced that good quality child day-care is an important contribution to social cohesion, insofar as it serves to foster the social, emotional, intellectual and physical development of all children, creates possibilities for children to make their opinions heard on matters concerning them, and ensures that their views are taken into account in decision-making processes, maintains links with the community, can have preventive and protective roles, enhances the social integration of children, especially with regard to children with disabilities and children in disadvantaged, poor and marginalised families and children from minority groups, and plays an important role in meeting the needs of working parents and those seeking employment, studying or undergoing training;
Considering that child day-care combines both the care and the education of children, and includes respecting parents as the first educators of the child, respecting the child’s cultural identity, stimulating the child’s creative, intellectual and spiritual development, his or her well-being, opportunities for self-expression and play, protecting children against all forms of bullying and violence, helping children with disabilities to achieve the greatest possible self-reliance and full integration into society, and enabling the child to prepare for participation and responsible life in a democratic society in a spirit of tolerance and equality;
Recommends that the governments of member states take action to promote accessible, affordable, flexible and good quality child day-care services in accordance with the principles and measures appearing in the appendix.
Appendix to Recommendation Rec(2002)8
1. For the purpose of this recommendation the term “child day-care services” may include: a. day nurseries, kindergartens and day-care centres where children from birth onwards spend a considerable period of time; b. playgroups for very young children; c. remunerated home childminding; d. family centres providing day-care as part of integrated services for families and children; e. day-care before and after school; f. school holiday play schemes.
2. Nothing in this recommendation should be read as implying that one form of child day-care is better or worse than another. The variety of situations in which children grow up calls for highly diversified provision, since different social contexts require different types of service.
3. This recommendation addresses the provision of high-quality child day-care seen as an integral part of overall social responsibility for the development and well-being of children, and should be given political priority at all levels (local, regional and national).
4. For the purposes of this recommendation, reference to “parents” may also include legal guardians or other individuals legally responsible for the child.
B. General principles
1. Child day-care is for children: it must therefore be organised in their best interests.
2. Child day-care should be available for all children.
3. There should be systems to ensure that children are not excluded from child day-care because of the economic situation of their families.
4. Flexibility as a concept should be applied throughout the system, from the diversity of services available to the individual services themselves at the local level.
5. The quality and content of child day-care, including programmes of activities, should be an on-going subject of debate and exchanges involving all actors in the field: children themselves according to their age and development, their parents, the day-care staff, the public authorities, the social partners, and researchers.
6. Provision should be planned within coherent, co-ordinated and integrated child day-care policies which encourage multidisciplinary and multi-sectoral co-operation at all levels.
7. Child day-care services should have a developmental focus and promote activities that combine care and education in a social context.
8. Education begun early in children’s lives should be seen as an integral part of developing their capacity to enjoy learning throughout their lives.
9. Children should be protected from all forms of physical and psychological violence, such as neglect and sexual abuse. Particular attention should be paid to preventing bullying, including racial, sectarian and gender abuse.
10. The relevant rights and responsibilities must be balanced so that:
a. the child enjoys the fundamental rights enshrined in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child;
b. the family carries out its primary responsibility for the upbringing, care and development of the child, whilst being able to obtain the support it needs to fulfil these obligations;
c. the state fulfils its responsibilities:
- in assisting parents and others responsible for the child to secure the conditions necessary for the child’s development;
- in ensuring that services responsible for the care and protection of children conform with standards established by competent authorities, particularly in the areas of safety, health and adequate staffing;
- in promoting appropriate measures in the economic sector enabling parents to balance their family responsibilities with their professional activities.
1. Adequate levels of child day-care provision in both urban and rural areas should be provided, with a diversity of services to match the changing needs of children and their families.
2. Children should have access to quality child day-care, regardless of family income, parental status, parental employment status, special educational needs, ethnic/language background, disabilities, etc.
3. Parents and other adults concerned should have easy access to clear and accurate information about the various child day-care services available in their country, region and locality.
1. To ensure that children are not excluded from day-care because of the economic situation of their families, various combinations of the following measures of assistance may be provided, according to different systems:
a. free access for children needing special support (e.g. children in low income or disadvantaged families, children with disabilities);
b. means-tested fees;
c. reduced fees for families with more than one child in day-care;
d. child day-care subsidies for all families, and in particular for low-income and/or socially disadvantaged families;
e. income support and public assistance schemes that consider child day-care as a basic need.
Services should be responsive to particular local conditions and adjust methods of operation accordingly (opening times and type of service for instance) without jeopardising the quality of day-care.
Quality child day-care provision calls for appropriate measures concerning the caregivers, parental involvement, the programme of activities, the physical environment, and adult to child ratios and composition of groups.
1. In order to provide children with high quality day-care and optimal conditions for participation, caregivers should have professional training so as to acquire the appropriate knowledge and skills for the care and education of all children, including specific training in children’s rights issues.
2. Measures should be introduced to raise the professional status of caregivers, so that staff feel that the community attaches a high value to their contribution.
3. Employment conditions for caregivers should be regulated so that people from all sections of society, both men and women, want to and are enabled to work in this field.
4. Steps should be taken to ensure that caregivers are able to build relationships of trust with children, be attentive to their needs and positive in dealing with them and their families.
5. Steps should also be taken to ensure that caregivers base their practice on each individual child, taking into account the child’s particular needs, abilities and interests, his or her family and living circumstances, his or her language and cultural heritage, and the conditions of the local community.
6. Steps should be taken to ensure that caregivers help children to learn how to learn, in particular by letting them live out their own learning experiences.
7. Steps should be taken to ensure that caregivers respect parents, colleagues and other professionals concerned, and are committed to developing co-operation and partnership with them and to observing high ethical standards in the best interests of children.
8. Steps should be taken to ensure that caregivers have high self-expectations, that they regularly reflect on their own practice together with colleagues, and be provided with opportunities for further training and professional development.
9. Caregivers should be provided with adequate guidance and sufficient time for the development and implementation of partnership practices.
10. Caregivers should be provided with sufficient time for planning and evaluating their work.
11. Steps should be taken to ensure staff stability, which enables children to form positive relationships with their caregivers.
1. Parent involvement should be recognised as an essential aspect of quality since it affects the continuity of the activities of care centres and of the education received by the child.
2. The shared responsibility of parents and day-care staff to provide optimal conditions for the child’s development and learning presupposes a partnership relationship based on a continuing, constructive dialogue, mutual trust, understanding and respect and a sharing of information and expertise.
3. Measures should be taken to encourage and enable parents to be involved in many different ways and at different levels.
Programme of activities
1. The child day-care programme should have a holistic approach. It should provide children with pleasurable, participative and rewarding learning experiences in a social context.
2. The programme should be flexible and include a variety of both planned and spontaneous activities.
3. The programme should include activities that encourage interaction with the community and facilitate social integration.
4. Children should participate, according to their age and development, in planning, developing and choosing activities and should be provided with opportunities to take part in decision-making processes and acquire democratic skills.
5. All activities should be based on methods that enable children to develop a positive self-concept and respect for differences of race, culture, religion, language, gender, and physical and mental capacities.
6. The use of everyday activities as learning processes (such as laying the table, shopping, cooking) should be encouraged as they bring together several areas of learning at the same time.
7. The programme should include ample opportunities for play, both indoors and outdoors. This has a fundamental role in young children’s learning as it fosters thinking, creativity, imagination, understanding, language learning and social competence including the ability to co-operate with others.
8. The programme should take into account the fact that talking is a very important element in children’s learning. Acquiring effective communication skills depends on high-quality adult-child and peer interaction in a stimulating, secure and supportive environment.
9. The programme of activities should provide learning experiences that help every child to develop concepts, knowledge, understanding, behaviour and skills. These learning experiences should be suited to the child’s age and level of development, to the needs and interests of the individual child, as well as to the particular situation of the group.
10. The special needs and capacities of children with disabilities should be identified and evaluated, through multidisciplinary collaboration, in order to design individual programmes for each child with the assistance of specialists. These programmes should be incorporated in the daily activities of the day-care facility in order to ensure proper participation and full integration of children with disabilities.
11. The special needs of gifted children should also be taken into consideration when planning and implementing programmes of activities.
12. The programme of activities should take into account the language needs of children with a mother tongue different from the national language(s).
13. The programme of activities should be evaluated and reviewed regularly in order to adapt it to changing needs.
The physical environment
Measures should be taken to ensure that children are cared for in hygienic and safe premises conforming to the health and safety regulations of the competent authorities. There should be adequate resources and equipment, which should be varied and educative. Premises should be accessible to children with disabilities.
Adult to child ratios and composition of groups
1. There should be enough adults in relation to the number of children, so that children have easy access to an adult capable of responding to their needs, can work in small groups and receive one-to-one attention when needed, and have a sense of security.
2. Opportunities should be provided for positive peer interaction in a variety of group settings, such as through integrated groups including children with special educational needs or disabilities, multicultural groups, mixed-age groups and same-age groups.
Member states should determine quality indicators and procedures for registering, monitoring and independently inspecting child day-care services in accordance with national legislation centred on the well-being, best interests and rights of children.
1. There should be national and international support for research into child day-care carried out in the interests of the child, paying particular attention to quality control and analysis of data on service provision. This calls for long-term planning if new outcomes are to be envisaged and the adequate development of appropriate provision is to be implemented.
2. Steps should be taken to disseminate research findings in the field at the international and national levels.