Croatia has extensive legal framework for guardianship system for minors and adults, regulating situations in which court or other competent institution has a duty to appoint a guardian to safeguard interests of either a child deprived of parental care or where the holders of parental responsibility cannot ensure the child’s best interest and/or represent the child, unaccompanied child migrant, minor victim of trafficking of adult person who is due to mental disability unable to protect his/her own interests. Article 12 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities stipulates obligation of States Parties to ensure that persons with disabilities have the right to recognition everywhere as persons before the law and that they recognize their legal capacity on an equal basis with others in all aspects of life, along with support they may require in exercising their legal capacity. As the role of guardian is often unclear and insufficiently regulated, practical implementation of guardianship is difficult or even impossible in some cases, thus affecting fundamental rights of a minor or adult under guardianship system. In social welfare, this is particularly concerning as persons under guardianship are usually in serious social risk and very vulnerable to exploitation of all kinds. Social workers are thus in a position to represent interests of the most deprived and disempowered and they should do it in an empowering manner, ensuring their social and legal equality. The paper provides analysis of the current legal regulation of guardianship for minors and adults in Croatia, looking into the main challenges of the guardianship system for both categories of beneficiaries. It emphasises inconsistencies of current legal regulation with international human rights law and points out the main areas where the system needs to be changed in accordance with the advanced models of guardianship system. Paper also provides examples of guardianship systems for unaccompanied minors in selected European countries which differ depending on whether they appoint professional guardians (usually Social Workers or Lawyers) or volunteer guardians without power to represent children before the courts. The aim of the paper is to contribute to legal discussions on the national guardianship system which is effective and protects the interests of beneficiaries in the best possible way and in line with the international human rights law, possibly providing guidance on managing and strengthening guardianship systems in Croatia.
Keywords: guardianship, unaccompanied minors, disabled adults, social welfare system.