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Children’s Rights are Right for Families…Guest Post for Campaign For Children

March 23, 2012

The post below is a guest post that I wrote for the  –

We have been promised a stand alone referendum of the subject of children’s rights, before the end of 2012. Enshrining the rights of children is important to improving standards and services for families. Despite what you will be told children’s rights will not undermine families.

Check out the Campaign for Children’s website and get involved.

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I’m a child protection social worker. I work on the coal face of child protection in Ireland, an issue that has been a contentious and at times controversial area of Irish life.

It’s an area often shrouded in confusion, unseen by the general public and only discussed in time of scandal. Yet the child protection problems that modern Ireland face ask deep questions about us as a society.

As a child protection social worker I spend my days dealing first hand with the results of inequality and social exclusion, the root causes of most of the problems that social workers deal with.

A full and concrete acknowledgement of children’s rights in Ireland will make my job as a social worker easier. This is not because it will undermine families, but because it will hopefully mean that children and families will begin to need less intervention from social workers in the first place.

Root problems

When we examine the reasons children come into care we can learn a lot. Of the four categories of abuse child protection social workers deal with, neglect is the number one cause of children being taken into care, ranking far above sexual abuse, physical abuse and emotional abuse.

The neglect of children in families stems from the neglect of their families as a whole, and the neglect of the communities they live in on a wider scale. It’s widely acknowledged that for most children the best place for them is in a loving family environment.

If we believe this to be true, it’s imperative that we support families and strengthen communities in order to protect children.

Best interests of children

The virtual invisibility of children in the Irish Constitution means that every day children and their families fail to get the supports they need. The best interests principle means that all decisions that are made that directly affect the lives of children will be required to take the best interests of the child into consideration. This principle, if enshrined in our Constitution, will mean strengthening families.

It’ll mean that the children and families who DO need social work intervention will be better supported by the recognition of children’s rights. As it currently stands, the HSE has long been shown to provide a patchwork service, with resources, services and even models of service delivery spread around the country at random.

All children and all families deserve the best services this State can manage. We need services to be driven by the best interests of children and their families and not by resource allocation.

Even if we make family supports more widely available and improve and streamline social work intervention, a minority of cases will remain in which families will not be able to provide a safe environment. These children will need to be taken into care.

But these children too will benefit from clear and strong children’s rights. At every step of the way, from court, to placement, to foster care, to aftercare – the best interests of the child and their own individual rights should be centre stage, allowing their needs to be at the centre of service delivery.

All children deserve to have their rights respected. In my role as a social worker however, I have seen with my own eyes that it’s the most vulnerable children in this country who most urgently need a strong declaration of their rights.

Only then can they and their families get the support and protection they need and deserve.

One Comment leave one →
  1. July 24, 2012 06:43

    Thanks for sharing. This is really interesting post. Keep posting such wonderful articles. I will keep visiting your blog.

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