Everyone must be alert to the possibility that children with whom they are in contact may be suffering from abuse or neglect. This responsibility is particularly relevant for professionals such as teachers, child care workers, health professionals and those working with adults with serious parenting difficulties.
It is also an important responsibility for staff and people involved in sports clubs, community activities, youth clubs, religious and faith sectors and other organisations catering for children.
Child protection is often the term used to identify government policy and its services working to prevent children being neglected and abused and to intervene when they are. In Ireland, as in many countries, the welfare of children is paramount.
International human rights norms ratified by Ireland, in particular the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and The Hague Convention on Adoption, provide a framework for domestic policy and practice relating to children’s rights. This global context includes the protection of children who enter Ireland from another country.
The government is responsible for the development of a wide range of policy and service activity, both direct and indirect, for children and young people in Ireland, while the Child and Family Agency is responsible for family support, protection and welfare of children and ‘children in care’ under the Child Care Act, 1991 as amended.
Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, provides specialist services for separated children seeking asylum. Children are referred to the service by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner (ORAC) and the Garda National Immigration Bureau (GNIB).
The majority of children referred to the service are received into care and initially accommodated in one of the intake units as either a “pre-reunification with their family placement”, or as a “pre-foster care placement”.
All unaccompanied children under 12 years of age are placed with a foster family on arrival. Children are received into the care of the Agency, either on a voluntary basis or through a court order under the Child Care Act 1991. Some of these children are received into care pending the outcome of a family reunification risk assessment or while family tracing is being facilitated.
All organisations including Government Departments, schools, health services, religious bodies, public sector agencies, clubs and leisure sector, funded organisations, private and voluntary bodies that are in contact with or providing services to children have an overall corporate duty and responsibility to safeguard children by:
Organisations should contact the Child and Family Agency where they are concerned about a child’s welfare and co-operate with the statutory bodies in the ongoing assessment and management of the case.
If you are a member of the public and you have any concerns about the welfare of a child you should contact the local social work duty service in the Child and Family Agency in the area where the child concerned resides. If in your view a child is in serious danger, and you cannot contact Tusla, you should contact the Gardaí without delay.
The term “Children First” was originally used in relation to Children First: National Guidelines for the Protection and Welfare of Children, first published in 1999 and reviewed and updated on a number of occasions since then, most recently in 2017. Since the enactment of the Children First Act 2015, the term is now a generic term used to encompass the guidance, the legislation and the implementation of both.
The 1991 Child Care Act provides for the appointment of a guardian ad litem in respect of care proceedings where:
The 1991 Act does not set out the criteria for such appointments, the qualifications required to act as a guardian nor the role, function and status of a guardian ad litem in care proceedings.