The contribution of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child to understanding and promoting the interests of young people making the transition from care to adulthood

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) acknowledges that young people without parental care are entitled to special support and assistance from the State. In detailing their expectations, the UN Committee have issued Guidelines for the Alternative Care of Children which recognise that State parties have a number of responsibilities towards care leavers. The paper explores how the UNCRC reporting process, and guidelines from the Committee outlining how States should promote the rights of young people making the transition from care to adulthood, can be used as an instrument to track global patterns of change in policy and practice. Content analysis of State Party Reports and Concluding Observations from 15 countries reveals that to date there has been limited engagement with understanding and promoting the needs of this group in the reporting process; although where a government is committed to developing legislation and practice then this does find its way into their national reports. Data supplied by affiliates of the International Research Network on Transitions to Adulthood from Care (INTRAC) reveals that national concerns, political ideology, public awareness, attitudes and knowledge of the vulnerability of care leavers influence service responses to protect and promote the rights of this group and the attention afforded to such issues in reports to the Committee. Findings also suggest that global governance is not simply a matter of top down influence. Future work on both promoting and monitoring of the impact of the UNCRC needs to recognise that what is in play is the management of a complex global/national dynamic with all its uneven development, levels of influence and with a range of institutional actors involved.