Child protection act to empower children and child care professionals
The recently proposed child protection act by the Ministry for Family, Children’s Rights and Social Solidarity is set to empower children and child care professionals in a new way.
Minister Michael Falzon yesterday said the proposed legislation was being seen as a breakthrough in the field of child protection.
Falzon announced that a sixweek consultation period had begin and that the first reading of the proposed bill was planned to be presented before Parliament closed for the summer. The minister stated that all stakeholders had been duly consulted afresh and many of their proposals had been incorporated into the proposed act. However, any proposals to improve the bill were still welcome.
Lawyer Andy Ellul spoke of the legal changes and proposals the new child protection act will be offering.
In the proposed new act, care and custody of minors in need of protection will no longer be entrusted to the minister and, as such, the minister will no longer be involved in the issuing of care orders. The government will no longer be directly or indirectly involved in such sensitive decisions, which will be taken either by the Juvenile Court or by the Review Board, as the case may be. The Review Board will not only be consultative in nature as the current Children and Young Persons Advisory Board, but it will be tantamount to a quasi-judicial board.
This does not mean that the state will be completely divested of all responsibility in the case of children removed or separated from their parents and placed in out-home care. It shall remain responsible for taking all appropriate measures to promote the well-being of children and to provide all the support services required to ensure that children’s rights and interests, as safeguarded by the act, are provided.
The act intends to remedy a situation where the state interferes in the children’s wellbeing without there being the presence of a court of law, representing independence and impartiality, to assess the cases and cater for a care plan which will ultimately provide for the future of the children concerned. This act also intends to bring the Maltese ‘care order’ system in line with judgements of the European Court of Human Rights and of the Maltese Constitutional Court.