More images from the conference are available here

In October, the IDC took part in the International Alternative Care Conference in Geneva. The conference brought together over 350 professionals from around the world who work on alternative care arrangements for children whose parents cannot look after them.


The conference focused on the implementation of the Guidelines for the Alternative Care of Children, which were welcomed by the UN General Assembly in 2009. The guidelines provide a framework for the care of children without parental care, as well as those at risk of losing parental care. They also provide a useful resource for IDC Members and partners advocating for alternatives to detention for children, as these widely adopted guidelines address many of the key concerns that need to be addressed when implementing alternatives and are already well known with the majority of States.


Many migrant and refugee children are on the move without a parent or guardian to care for them. Some countries have established laws that prevent unaccompanied and separated children from being detained, and instead use alternative measures. Unfortunately, some governments detain unaccompanied minors despite clear risks to their safety, health and wellbeing.


Many conference participants did not work with refugee and migrant children, and were shocked to hear of the detention of children. Some were also concerned about the gap between the standards envisaged by the guidelines and some of the alternatives to detention for children that have been established. In particular, there are concerns about institutional care, such as orphanages or shelters, with a strong push for all children to be placed in family-like settings.


The conference was a wonderful opportunity to reach out to an important group of allies to educate them about the detention of children, to build relationships with experts and professionals who can assist in advocating for alternatives to detention, and to build interest in alternative care arrangements for children on the move.

Find out more:

Recommended reading for the conference
UNHCR has a child protection brief on alternative care which highlights that “Alternative care should build on existing care systems”: