If we are serious about children’s rights we must focus on what they need and provide that in a transparent and effective manner, as the proposed amendment says “best interests of the child shall be the paramount consideration”.
Some people have argued in the past and will no doubt argue again that a children’s rights referendum will set children against parents and break up families, that meeting children’s needs will come at the expense of the family unit. The truth is that couldn’t be more wrong. Enabling children’s rights, all of them including the right to a family, means protecting children by protecting families.
Let me give you examples from my day to day work.
Protecting the family is the best way to protect the child and their rights. To support families we will regularly use local services, such as the local Family Resource Centre. This can provide a variety of excellent supports to promote family well being and by doing so protect child. Recent reports have shown the increasing demand the services of local Family Resource Centre’s at a time when their funding is decreasing. If children have a right to safety, a right to family relationships, then services like this need to be protected and promoted.
For me this issue is illustrated the best by housing need I see in my clients lives. So many of the families I work with in social work have housing difficulties – overcrowding, substandard accommodation, and lack of meaningful tenancy supports. For families from the travelling community housing provision is even worse. The child’s best interests and their right to shelter and housing can only be made real through the whole families receiving adequate housing supports – to protect children’s rights we protect their family.
Everyday decisions are made not based on what a child needs, but what we can provide. The recent Report of the Independent Child Death Review Group stressed the importance of promptly identifying and providing the necessary services to meet the needs of the child. Yet frequently it is not a question of what is the most appropriate service but which of the only services available is least inappropriate.
Best practice in social work underlines that a child should only be taken into care as a last resort and that children’s needs are best met in their family of origin. The amendment itself stress that the state will only take on the role of parents “in exceptional circumstances” and in a “proportionate” way. As social workers we seek to first protect children by supporting families, only when this fails will children come into care. I believe that a children’s rights referendum will make my job easier because it will make supporting families easier and not because it will mean I can break up families easier.
To Support children’s rights means supporting families, supporting the amendment to the constitution means supporting children and families together.
I for one will be voting a giant Yes on November 10th.
So, Saturday November 10th has been set as a the date for the children’s rights referendum.
Now is the time to get out and canvass, at home, at work, in our neighbourhoods.
Also, don’t forget to vote!
For the wording of the referendum see the governments website HERE
The website of the Campaign for Children can be found HERE
And for a different opinion from me and the Campaign for Children check out the website of The Alliance of Parents Aginst the State HERE
Whatever the final wording, if the coming Children’s Right referendum passes it will mark a new phase in Irish Family law and Irish jurisprudence. Whatever the wording new and novel cases and legal arguments will heard, and old ideas will be questioned in this new light. In times like this the courts, particularly the Supreme Court, take on a central role.
It is with this in mind that I note with curiosity the news that the Hon. Mr. Justice John MacMenamin has been appointed by the government to the bench of the Supreme Court.
The Hon. Mr. Justice John MacMenamin previously presided over the Minors list in the High Court, which includes all special care applications. Justice MacMenamin has shown an interest in child law, special care, children’s rights and unmarried fathers, often contributing to seminars and publishing papers on these areas. Justice MacMenamin has show an awareness of the rights of the child, perhaps this is most infamously seen in his judgement in the High Court in the Baby Anne case. This judgement was of course over turned by what were then his superiors in the Supreme Court.
It is impossible to know how or if his judgements will be effected by his promotion, but I for one will watch with interest how this plays out.
Of parallel interest is the fact that in her judgement in the Baby Anne case, Supreme Court Justice Catherine McGuinness stated that given the law as it was she had to overturn the high court verdict, but did so reluctantly. Of course, with any referendum these restrictions may no longer apply.
It would foolish of me to make any serious predictions, but a constitutional amendment, a new judge, and an old one given new scope guarantee that things will at least be interesting.
I have (finally) updated the Archive page – http://fullcareorder.wordpress.com/archive-index/
Since my article was picked up by the Guardian Social Care Network Blog I picked up one or two extra followers but I haven’t had much time to write new articles yet. figured an easy link to my previous work might keep you all interested until I get some new content up.
Thanks for the interest in this blog, there are quite a few things I want to get off my chest so more posts will be coming, plus as I read back through the stuff I wrote early on I see there are several promises of work that I have not lived up to!
I am tempted to indulge myself with observations about the art of blog publishing but that would be truly off topic, so I will just thank you all for reading the blog and for your patience while waiting for updates, which will be coming very soon!