Sjumilssteget - the Giant Leap

Sjumilssteget - The Giant Leap

The Convention on the Rights of the Child in practice

Welcome to Sjumilssteget (the Giant Leap), a joint effort to implement the Convention on the Right of the Child in Norwegian municipalities. Our effort started in 2009 - the year we could celebrate the Conventions 20th birtday. Sjumilssteget is aiming at providing an assessment tool to local municipalities’ authorities for the protection of children´s rights in order for them to thrive. It has also, in collaboration with the municipality of Lenvik, developed a model to help various professions to establish arenas for cooperation. Early intervention and interdisciplinary meetings where parents and children can participate gives the opportunity to identify issues before they escalate to major problems. The website presents the Sjumilssteg model and its purpose is to assist in spreading knowledge about the UN Convention to employees in the public and private sector who work with children and youngster.

Why should we take the Giant Leap?

Most children flourish in their childhood and prosper socially and personality wise. They have good caregivers, many friends and develop abilities and knowledge throughout kindergarten and school. They are proud of their culture, respectful for others, have empathy and tolerance and use their skills and talents for the benefit of themselves, their family and the society at large.

But for some children the situation is different. An increasing amount of children, some at an early stage of life, grow problems. Inflicted trauma can cause complications later in childhood. Many children are exposed/ witness to violence by or from their parents. Children of parents who are struggling with substance abuse or mental health issues are particularly vulnerable in terms of their own mental health. Statistically 1 of 5 girls is abused in various forms throughout her childhood. In respect to and view of the goals that were set in the National Program for Mental Health (In Norwegian: Opptrappingsplanen for psykisk helse), children turned out to be the losing party.  The amount of Children in need of assistance from the child- and adolescent psychiatric clinics has increased and we are operating with waiting lists for treatment.

In 2011, more than 52,000 Norwegian children received attending support from local child welfare services. And yet, we register a growing need for such services in the whole country. Unfortunately, due to lack of reports, we know little about the situation for the youngest children in daycare/kindergarten.

With reference to the educational and psychological counseling service (in Norwegian: PPT- Pedagogisk Psykologisk Tjeneste), the percentage of students in need for special assistance shows a disturbing escalation. There is also reason to worry about students’ psychosocial learning environment. Many schools and other public buildings used by children with disabilities are not accessible (universally designed). In turn, this leads to exclusion from services that are important for them.  They do not benefit services that others can take for granted.

Lack of support services

Issues experienced by families or children are not always adaptable to a specific public service or management level. Meeting different support services can therefore often lead to a series of encounters resulting in a fragmented problem solution. In light of this, children can experience to be perceived as relay batons between different services/offices as new problems are identified. Experiences from individual cases and supervisions from the County Governor show a lack of coordination and interdisciplinary meeting points for children who need it.

This may be due to specialization, low competence/knowledge for other services, treatment cultures or the perceptions that confidentiality does not allow to establish cooperation between services. In addition, it is a reality that employees in healthcare, kindergartens and schools find it difficult to take up their concerns directly with the parents before it has advanced to an expressed problem.

Sjumilssteget (the Giant Leap)

The County Governor of Troms is aiming at breaking a long tradition of sharing children’s problems between different services. We hope that today's municipalities take a conscious step into a new reality, based on uniting their services to help children with special needs - and to work together to create a better environment for all children in the community. In this light, the Governors starting point is the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child – The children’s Constitution. In 2003, the Convention was applied as Norwegian law and is thus equally binding to all municipalities on the same level as the legislation many specific services today bases their work on. This implies that schools and various support agencies have to relate to its provisions (articles) in addition to the special legislation (særlovgivning). The Convention is thus creating the necessary human rights basis for interagency responsibility for all children in the community. In 2009, the municipalities of Troms by mayors and councilors were asked to take a starting point in the Convention in their efforts to analyze children’s situation in their own municipality, identify areas for improvement and implement necessary measures. The Governor called this work Sjumilssteget (the Giant Leap) because municipalities were asked to make their analysis and improvement measures based on a range of seven articles / article sites. To assist municipalities in their analysis, the Governor presented a tool consisting of a set of control questions they could use as part of this work.

 

In relation to the further work, the Governor initiated cooperation with children’s representatives from various youth Councils and several non- governmental organizations (NGOs) expected to make important contributions to municipal efforts to create activities for children in the community.

CRCs 20th birthday