Preparing for 'children referendum'
Sir, – I am glad to see some important points about the proposed amendment raised by John Byrne (Opinion, October 31st). As a professionally qualified social worker and as someone who has worked with vulnerable children and adults for 20 years, I agree with him on several points.
He raises the very important issue of adoption without parental consent. This is a very significant change for Irish society and for Irish social work practice and I think it merits more debate than there has been to date. One of the most important rights of the child is to know his family.That is why so much of social work practice is about facilitating relationships between parents and children.
A child does not have to live at home to know his family. In fact sometimes it is crucial he does not. For most of the children I have worked with in care, it has been a fundamental need to have a sense of identity.
“Family” is not just parents. It is siblings, grandparents aunts and uncles and cousins. To permanently remove a child by having him adopted is to deny him this right. Very interesting work on relative fostering and the importance of kinship ties has been done in New Zealand. This has come about as a result of reflecting on the experience of many Maori children being removed from parental care and forcibly adopted because the parents were seen as “unfit”. In Ireland we have had the industrial schools where mainly the poor and marginalised were incarcerated.
Parenting is hard work. It is harder still if you have grown up in care/ are poor/ living in substandard accommodation/ struggling with addiction. Intervening early in such situations with targeted support for parents and children could prevent much of the firefighting down the line. There is already a sound legal framework for protecting children.
The problem is the current child protection system is not working; and until we have a very frank debate about why this is so, nothing will change. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – In 2004, the 27th Amendment to the Constitution was passed. The new Article 9.2.1 stated: “Notwithstanding any other provision of this Constitution, a person born in the island of Ireland, which includes its islands and seas, who does not have, at the time of the birth of that person, at least one parent who is an Irish citizen or entitled to be an Irish citizen is not entitled to Irish citizenship or nationality, unless provided for by law.”
The proposed 31st Amendment intends that the State protects and vindicates the imprescriptible rights of all children. Yet Article 9.2.1 is discriminatory against a child born here of non-EU national parents?
Will the new amendment, if passed, render the deportation of children of non-nationals impossible because the child will surely tell the judge that he/she wants to remain here with parents and school friends? I consider that living in Ireland protects the interests of the child much more than living in destitution elsewhere.