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Child Protection And Children's Rights


Course requirements

Master degree

Course information

The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and its two substantive Optional Protocols clearly advocate that every child must be protected against all forms of violence, that is: physical or mental violence, abuse or neglect in different settings (e.g. home, school or institutions) and related to different contexts (e.g. education/upbringing, religion or custom). In addition, the child has a right to respect for his or her family life, which can relate to the child's biological family and to his or her 'new' family in alternative care.

This course focuses on the state obligation to protect children against violence withing the family; reasons for state intervention in the family and the protection of children in alternative care. The first part of this course (2 weeks) focuses on child protection systems and the protection of children against violence. The CRC provides a legal frame for child protection, which includes provisions with regard to the role and responsibilities of the parents or guardians towards children as primary caregivers and with regard to child protection mechanisms, including alternative care. This course addresses the rights of children who are in need of protection and care of the State when parents fail, are unwilling or incapable to provide adequate care. It explores the balancing of the right to family life and positive obligations of States when children are in need of care and protection. The CRC general provisions of the best interests of the child (art. 3 CRC) and the right of the child to be heard (art. 12 CRC) will be discussed in relation to protection against abuse and neglect, separation of child and parents or carers and alternative care. The CRC and regional human rights instruments such as the European Convention on Human Rights and case law, will be used as guidance. In addition, child protection systems will be analysed: what are core elements, how do systems respond when concerns about the child’s upbringing are reported, which court interventions are possible? What are the implications of the rights of children in need of care for the domestic level?

The second part of the course focuses on children in alternative care. In 2010 the General Assembly of the United Nations welcomed the Guidelines on Children in Alternative Care, which provides guidelines for the implementation of Article 20 of the CRC. Forms of alternative care can differ substantially worldwide. We will discuss the rights of children in alternative care and the implications this has for children in different forms of alternative care settings as well as the responsibility of states towards these children. The last week of the course will be devoted to topical issues related to children in alternative care. As part of this course guest lecturers will be invited, such as a representative of SOS Children’s Villages.

The programme consists of 5 weeks with interactive lectures and seminars. Students have to prepare the compulsory literature and the questions/cases provided on BrightSpace but will also be stimulated to prepare other relevant literature on their own initiative.

Course objectives

This course aims to provide in depth knowledge about the international children’s rights framework with regard to protection of children against violence, including the framework with regard to children in need of protection and care at home and in alternative care settings, its relation to regional human rights documents and case law and its significance for the rights of children at the domestic level. A critical reflection on the potential and limitations of children’s rights to protection and care when parents or caregivers are incapable or unwilling to be a ‘good enough’ parent will be part of this course. More specifically:

  • Students will acquire thorough knowledge of children’s right to protection against violence and their right to care as part of international human rights law as enshrined in the CRC, General Comments, the UN Guidelines on Children in Alternative Care and other international and regional children’s rights instruments;

  • Students will acquire knowledge and understanding of the different legal tools for implementing and monitoring children’s rights to protection against violence and care at the domestic level;

  • Students will acquire thorough legal knowledge and understanding of State obligations to effectively protect children against violence and neglect at home and in alternative care settings and will learn how to balance the rights of children, parents and the State;

  • Students will acquire knowledge and understanding of core elements of child protection systems and will learn how to reflect on the implementation of children’s rights in child protection systems;

  • Students will be able to critically reflect on international children’s rights with regard to protection against violence and neglect, and (alternative) care, and have an understanding of relevant ethical issues and dilemmas, challenges and caveats when implementing children’s rights in legal daily practice of child protection;

  • Students are able to analyse and answer complex legal questions concerning children’s right to protection against violence, neglect at home and in alternative care settings of children using their knowledge of and insight into the different international children’s rights instruments;

Mode of instruction

Seminar: 5 weeks of 2 seminars per week of 2 hours each

Examination method

Written examination: 70%

Written assignment: 30%

The final grade for the course is established by determining the weighted average.

The opportunity exists to re-take the exam and assignment. It will be up to the discretion of the relevant lecturer/examiner to decide on the form of the retake. The retake may consist of a written retake exam, oral retake exam or any other kind of assessment that is deemed appropriate.


The literature is distributed through BrightSpace.
Submission of written assignment via BrightSpace.

Course materials

A list of all study materials will be published on BrightSpace. Unless otherwise indicated, all study materials are available via the online catalogue or as a paper copy in the Leiden law Library. Where possible, all required and recommended reading materials will be made available through BrightSpace.


Coordinator of the course:
Mr. Kartica van der Zon
Telephone number: 0031-71 527 6144
Email address:

Programme Officer:
Ms. Esther Uiterweerd
Telephone number: 0031-71 527 4644
Email address:

Currently these pages are being updated to reflect the courses for 2022 - 2023. Until these pages are fixed as per 1 September 2022 no rights can be claimed from the information which is currently contained within.

Should there be any future changes of the Covid 19 virus which may impinge our teaching and assessment, these could necessitate modification of the course descriptions after 1 September. This will only happen in the event of strict necessity and the interests of the students will be taken into account. Should there be a need for any change during the course, this will be informed to all students on a timely basis. Modifications after 1 September 2022 may only be done with the approval and consent of the Faculty Board and Programme Director.