Press Statement, 20 June 2012
***FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE***
Senator van Turnhout; Profoundly Saddened by Child Death Report. Urgent Need For Children’s Rights Referendum.
“I greet the publication later today of the Independent Child Death Review Group Report with profound sadness and a sense of the responsibility and shame I bear as a member of a society that has systematically failed to protect our most vulnerable children.
I commend the dedicated work and the sensitivity with which the report’s authors, Dr Geoffrey Shannon and Norah Gibbons, met the agonising task of accounting for the life and death of 196 children and young adults known to the HSE, or in State care between 2000 and 2010. Each and every one in this number is a child and the report has documented many deaths that could and should have been prevented.
I want to extend my deepest sympathies to the mothers, fathers, grandparents, brothers, sisters and friends of each of the young people documented in the report. Their stories have been told anonymously but they know who they are.
We don’t need special expertise to recognise the importance of stability, consistency and support for children’s wellbeing and development. It is what we all expect in our own lives. It is even more important from the perspective of children in care, given their often turbulent and dysfunctional backgrounds. Yet, I know that if you talk to children in care, many will describe having had a litany of social workers assigned to them over the course of a few years and no sense of a constant presence upon whom they can rely. The systemic failure is demonstrated by the reported state of some care files, which were in “complete disarray”. What we know is right for children generally cannot be disregarded for children in care
Today’s publication of the report does not mark day one in the reform process. The Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Frances Fitzgerald TD, has had sight of this report for a number of months and I call on the Minister to outline the measures that have been put in place during this time. The new Child and Family Support Agency, which will ensure greater integration between child welfare and protection and family support and will ultimately lead to better outcomes for children and their families, must be established as a matter of urgency.
Furthermore, I believe that to ensure a robust system that protects all children equally. We must strengthen children’s rights in our Constitution. We need a constitutional amendment that will allow the State to respond earlier, proportionately and more decisively. The focus should be on keeping families together. However, in exceptional cases the State must be empowered to intervene in the best interests of the child. The Children’s Rights Referendum has to happen this year. Children are constantly being pushed to the bottom of the priority list. This is our opportunity to clearly demonstrate that we value each and every child.”