Chil­dren must be at cen­tre of the sys­tem

Irish Independent - - Letters & Editorial Comment -

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.

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