Zappone announces full review of child care legislation

The review will aim to ensure that the views of children are central to any decisions affecting their home life

Zappone announces full review of child care legislation

File photo, Katherine Zappone. Image: RollingNews.ie

The Minister for Children has announced a full review of the Child Care Act, to better protect children in crisis situations.

Katherine Zappone said the review will focus on ensuring that the views of children are central to any decisions which impact on their family and home life.

It will also aim to ensure that children who are being taken into care should have the support of a 'Guardian ad Litem' GAL who looks after their interests in court proceedings.

Key moment

Announcing the review, Minister Zappone said Ireland is “at a key moment” in terms of our efforts to protect the most vulnerable children in our society.

“It is a quarter of a century since the introduction of the Child Care Act,” she said. “It is now time to revisit our laws, regulations and policies to examine where we can do better for our children.”

The review will aim to ensure that the voice of the child is “placed absolutely central to any decisions which are taken.”

Minister Zappone said the review will also aim to “end the adversarial nature” of child care proceedings in an effort to make rebuilding family and home life easier on children.

“We need the relationship between social work teams and families to be based on trust and respect – allowing a mediated approach rather than courtroom battles,” she said.

Guardian ad Litem

The minister is due to speak at an event marking 20 years of children’s charity Barnardos’ GAL service providing an experienced professional to look after children’s interests in court proceedings.

Proposals to reform the national regulated GAL service will be debated by TDs and Senators later this week.

The minister said the proposal has been welcomed by children’s rights campaigners and “is in line with 26 submissions received from organisations.”

“It is my intention that every child in care proceedings will have the opportunity to avail of the support of such a Guardian ad Litem – with a requirement on courts to give reasoning when an appointment is not made,” she said.

The right to be heard

Barnardos chief executive Fergus Finlay welcomed the pledge calling it a positive move for children in crisis situations.

“The decision to take a child into care is a life-changing decision,” he said. “It normally involves a child who is at risk and it very often involves a child who is in very considerable emotional distress.

“It has always been a matter of concern to us that not every child in that situation has the right to be heard.”

He welcomed the minister’s commitment to ensuring that every child has a right to a guardian – adding that work must now begin on finding practical and value for money ways of providing the service.