Thousands of child protection cases every year, Minister saysSaturday, April 7th, 2012
There are 30,000 child protection cases every year and of these 1,500 involve children who are the victims of sexual, physical or emotional abuse, the Minister for Children, Frances Fitzgerald (pictured) has revealed.
The minister was speaking at the Fine Gael Árd Fheis last weekend. Her comments come after it emerged that a report into the deaths of a number of children in care is set to reveal serious and sustained failures by the State to properly protect 115 vulnerable children. The report is set to be released in the next number of weeks.
The minister said that it is unacceptable that people were aware of child abuse and neglect but failed to act. Condemning what she called the, “shambolic child protection system,” of the previous government, Ms Fitzgerald said that the figures mean, “that in recent years, thousands more children have been neglected, assaulted, raped and humiliated,” the Irish Times reports.
Calling for increased awareness of the harm done to children through abuse and neglect, the Minister said, “In many past instances of abuse, people knew but did nothing.”
Ms Fitzgerald said breaking the, “national cycle of silence,” required legislation on child protection that was pending, a reformed system of State care and intervention, and the amendment of the Constitution, to strengthen child protection.
The Oireachtas committee on health and children will consider the heads or initial elements of the Children First Bill after Easter. The Minister said this legislation was first promised in 1998 by Fianna Fáil. She pledged to have it in place by the end of the year.
About 1,600 children are in long-term fostering but cannot be adopted by their foster parents because their parents are married. She said the State discriminated against children, “based on whether their parents wear wedding rings or not.”
However, very few children in care in Ireland are adopted each year whether their parents are married or not.
The Minister is awaiting the advice of the Attorney General before publishing the report into the deaths of children in care, which was, “harrowing and upsetting,” and, “would show how abuse and neglect in the early years of a child’s life can be the beginning of a journey which is bleak and troubled and short.”
The last few years have seen a number of reports highlighting failures in such cases.
Norah Gibbons, director of advocacy for children's charity Barnardos, who was part of the review group, said in 2010 that the system for dealing with vulnerable children was, “not fit for purpose.” Last year, it emerged that 35 children and teenagers known to the Health Service Executive (HSE) died between March of 2010 and, October 2011.
It was also revealed that were 16 serious incidents involving children or adolescents known to the HSE over the same period.
Of those 35 deaths, most were due to natural causes, or accidents, but causes also included drug overdose, suicide and even homicide. The 16 cases described as serious incidents included accidents, parental abuse or neglect, or alleged sexual abuse.
Dr Helen Buckley, the independent chair of the National Review Panel, which reported the findings last year, criticised the HSE for numerous failures that led to sub-standard care in some cases. In a report by the Health Information and Quality Authority last year, it emerged that some children were being placed by the HSE with foster parents who were not properly vetted.
The report into the HSE in Dublin found, “significant deficiencies in the vetting, assessment and approval of carers, particularly relative carers,” and, “serious concerns in relation to child protection practices and the assessment of child protection concerns.”
by Tom O'Gorman