Children must be at centre of the system
USUALLY when we hear of a minister flying off on a ‘fact-finding mission’ the word junket comes to mind. However, Katherine Zappone’s visit to the Special Victims Unit in New York couldn’t come at a more appropriate time. For the past week the country has debated the outcome of the Tom Humphries case at length. Respected bodies such as the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre have argued that too much emphasis was put on Humphries’s previous standing as a highly respected ‘Irish Times’ writer, and not enough on the impact his crime had on his young victim.
Writing in today’s Irish Independent the Children’s Minister does not make direct reference to the Humphries case, but she does admit: “In recent days the response of our legal, care and support systems to the needs of children and young people who have been abused has been in the spotlight.”
She notes that questions are being asked about whether we have “lost our child focus” and suggests the processes in place for dealing with such horrific cases are “re-victimising young people”.
Ms Zappone is in a position to change the way the system works. For a start, it is astonishing that Ireland does not already have a single 24-hour social work service that can work with gardaí in responding to emergency cases.
The introduction in December of mandatory reporting of child protection issues for all groups dealing with children is a big step forward. However, it must be backed up with the necessary resources and be child-centred.
Ireland has a very sad history when it comes to dealing with child abuse, so we must look to international best practice and waste no time in implementing it.