A child or young person’s identity is made up of many different parts. Among other things, it includes:
- their name and nationality
- their race, culture, religion and language
- their appearance, abilities, gender identity and sexual orientation.
Article 8 of the UNCRC is about a child or young person’s name, nationality and family relationships. It says that the government shouldn’t interfere with a child or young person’s right to any of these. It also says the government should be able to help if any of these things are taken from them illegally.
As well as this, this Article says official records should be kept of who a child or young person is to make sure information about their name, nationality or birth parents isn’t lost.
Families are important, especially relationships with your brothers and sisters— your siblings. We know these relationships are important for mental health and a sense of identity, so you should be able to contact your brother or sister unless for some reason it’s not in your best interests.
Article 8 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), which is about the child’s right to a family life, also talks about the importance of a child’s right to an identity. It recognises the importance of siblings, grandparents and other relatives to a child’s sense of identity.
The United Nations Guidelines for the Alternative Care of Children (II B (17) also says that every effort should be made to enable siblings to maintain contact with each other, unless this is against their wishes or interests.
And the European Court of Human Rights of Human Rights has confirmed family life can exist between siblings—reinforcing your European Convention on Human Rights right to family life.
What you can do
If you’ve been separated from your siblings because you are in care, you can tell your Children’s Hearing that you want to have contact with your sister.
Contact is something a Children’s Hearing must consider when they are making decisions, including trying to keep siblings together or at least have contact with each other.
You might find it helpful if you’re speaking to social workers or Children’s Panel members to have an advocacy worker to support you in getting your views across. You can find information about advocacy for looked after children on the Who Cares? Scotland website.
A group called Stand up for Siblings is supporting calls for a change in the law to protect relationships between brothers and sisters in the new Children (Scotland) Bill. You can find information specifically for children and young people on their website.
Local authorities should also consider your need for contact with your family – including siblings – as part of assessment and care planning. If they don’t do this, you can make a formal complaint about social work. You can find out how to do this on your council website by searching under the word ‘complaints’.
If you are not happy with the response to your complaint, you can ask the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman to review it.
Using the law
Although the UNCRC recognises the right to family life as including sibling relationships, Scots law does not make it easy for siblings to obtain orders enabling contact.
If you are a child or a young person and would like advice and information from the Commissioner’s office – or to tell us something you’re worried about – you can contact Linda, Nick or Maria by:
- using the form at the bottom of our website
- emailing us at email@example.com
- texting 0770 233 5720 (Texts will be charged at your standard network rate)
- calling our children and young people’s freephone on 0800 019 1179.
We can also give advice and information about children’s rights issues to adults—please contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org or through using our contact form.
More in the Rights questions and answers section
Reunite International assist and advise both in cases of international abduction, but also help parents who fear their children may be abducted. The website also has a list of family lawyers who specialise in child abduction and an abduction prevention guide.
The UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office also has information available online.
More in the Rights questions and answers section
Article 8 in context
While other elements of identity aren’t specifically covered by Article 8, they are protected by other articles in the UNCRC. For example:
- Article 2 says children and young people shouldn’t be discriminated against because of their identity.
- Article 30 says children and young people have the right to their own culture, religion and language.
- Article 20 says children and young people don’t lose the right to their own culture, religion and language if they’re not able to live with their families.
What does Article 8 say about early life?
Article 8 also says that a child or young person should be able to find out about their early life. It says they should be able to find out about the country they’re from, and that they should be able to enjoy its culture, religion and language.
What does Article 8 say about adoption?
Under Article 8, young people who are adopted can try and find out who their birth parents are. They should be sure this is what they want beforehand, however. It’s a good idea for a young person who’s made this decision to talk it through before going ahead with it.