Evolving capacities is the concept in which education, child development and youth development programs led by adults takes into account the capacities of the child or youth to exercise rights on his or her own behalf. The concept of evolving capacities is employed internationally as a direct alternative to popular concepts of child and youth development.
The concept of evolving capacities of the child first emerged in international law through the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Article Five of the Convention says that:
|“||States Parties shall respect the responsibilities, rights and duties of parents or, where applicable, the members of the extended family or community as provided for by local custom, legal guardians or other persons legally responsible for the child, to provide, in a manner consistent with the evolving capacities of the child, appropriate direction and guidance in the exercise by the child of the rights recognized in the present Convention.||”|
Article twelve also addresses evolving capacities, stating that:
|“||States Parties shall assure to the child who is capable of forming his or her own views the right to express those views freely in all matters affecting the child, the views of the child being given due weight in accordance with the age and maturity of the child. For this purpose, the child shall in particular be provided the opportunity to be heard in any judicial and administrative proceedings affecting the child, either directly, or through a representative or an appropriate body, in a manner consistent with the procedural rules of national law.||”|
Evolving capacities recognizes that as children acquire enhanced competencies there is less need for protection and a greater possibility that they can take responsibility for decisions affecting their lives. The Convention allows for the recognition that children in different environments and cultures, and faced with diverse life experiences, will acquire competencies at different ages.
The Canadian International Development Agency reports that there are three primary points to consider regarding evolving capacities:
- Evolving capacities should be understood in the context of where children grow;
- Evolving capacities should grow out of respect for the competencies young people already have, and;
- Adults should protect young people from experiences and decisions they have not yet acquired the capacity to take responsibility for.
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