The European Forum for Restorative Justice (EFRJ) and Terre des hommes (TdH) call the European Commission to support the implementation of restorative justice, specifically in the areas of promotion of a restorative child-friendly justice and of the prevention of violence in school settings. A Joint Position Paper by the two organisations has been submitted to the European Commission as feedback on the draft of the EU strategy on the rights of the child (2021-24).
Restorative justice with children is applicable in various settings, including family, schools, and the criminal justice system. Restorative justice looks at children as first and foremost children. Restorative justice is particularly valuable to protect vulnerable children, empower children in identifying and managing emotions to prevent (and/or respond to) conflict and violence, and give them a safe space when dealing with matters relevant to them.
A restorative child-friendly justice approach proposes a tailor-made, creative and flexible communication processes for both child victims and child offenders. The premise that guides a restorative approach is that each intervention designed for children should take into account their individual characteristics, needs and strengths.
To fully implement the dynamics of a restorative child-friendly justice, it is crucial also to work on the promotion of a restorative culture. School is an important environment in which to promote Restorative justice as an educational tool to learn about emotions, self-expression, to care about relationships and to learn about ways to address conflict and harm.
Based on research and on International and European provisions on Restorative justice and on the right of the child we propose the following recommendations:
1. A SECURED FRAMEWORK FOR CHILD-FRIENDLY RESTORATIVE JUSTICE
- Advocate for and encourage policy makers to implement a statutory basis and national legislation on restorative justice for children.
- Encourage States to enhance child justice by developing long term and sustainable strategies and action plans which include quality child-friendly restorative justice programmes.
- Allocate adequate human and financial resources to guarantee well-resourced child-friendly restorative justice programmes.
2. AVAILABILITY AND ACCESSIBILITY OF RESTORATIVE JUSTICE FOR CHILDREN
- Encourage the use of restorative justice and guarantee the wide availability of restorative justice mechanisms for child victims and offenders at all stages of criminal justice proceedings including diversion and after care.
3. INCLUSIVE AND MEANINGFUL RESTORATIVE JUSTICE PRACTICES FOR CHILDREN
- Guarantee safe and high-quality restorative justice practices with children, in full compliance with procedural safeguards and international and European child rights standards.
- Invest in the development and implementation of child-centred individual multidisciplinary needs’ assessment’s tools and procedures.
- Collect data and document promising practices on child-friendly restorative justice developed locally.
4. MEANINGFUL PARTICIPATION OF CHILDREN IN RESTORATIVE JUSTICE
- Guarantee a meaningful participation of the children involved in restorative justice, in multiple creative ways adapted to their level of development and individual needs.
- Provide effective, accessible and quality mechanisms and tools to empower children, family members, educators and other staff members in using conflicts as an opportunity for learning.
- Ensure that restorative justice involving children guarantee equal and inclusive participation of children, taking into their account their characteristics.
5. REINFORCING THE CAPACITIES OF PROFESSIONALS WORKING IN RESTORATIVE JUSTICE WITH CHILDREN
- Ensure that children involved in restorative justice are in contact with professionals with the adequate level of specialisation to work in youth justice.
- Provide continuous and specialised training programmes for professionals working with children.
- Create multi-disciplinary teams at national, regional and local level, facilitating cooperation among professionals that work on specific cases for the best interests of each child.
6. PROMOTING A RESTORATIVE CULTURE FOR CHILDREN
- Promote a restorative culture in all settings where conflict may arise and children may be present, such as families and schools.
- Raise awareness among child justice actors and community members on the benefits of Restorative justice for children.