Foster children to leave 'twilight zone'
IMPLICATIONS: Children waiting to be adopted by their foster families can emerge from a “twilight zone” as a result of the electorate’s acceptance of the constitutional amendment, Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald has said.
It has traditionally been extremely difficult for the child of married parents to be adopted because of the requirement to prove the child will be abandoned until he or she is 18.
“Those young people we’ve talked about, who’ve been in that twilight zone, who can’t currently be adopted because the bar is so high, it now means that those young people have a second opportunity at permanent family life,” she said.
Ms Fitzgerald said action must now take place in instances where the safety or welfare of a child was being compromised. The views of the child would be taken into account in proceedings concerning adoption, guardianship, custody and access.
However, she said the Yes vote in the referendum, which puts new articles into the Constitution, was only part of a wider programme. “Constitutional reform is an important building block. It’s a first step. There’s a lot of other work to do in regard to legislation and reforming our services.”
Ms Fitzgerald said a new child and family support agency would be created that would be separate from the HSE, with the aim of “reforming the model of service delivery and improving accountability to the Dáil”.
Ms Fitzgerald also said she intended to reform the guardian ad litem system.
Guardians ad litem are those who represent the interests of children in care.
“It has grown up in a very ad-hoc manner and it needs regulation, and that’s going to be a priority for me in the new year,” she said, adding: “It clearly needs proper legislation and criteria to be developed and I’m going to do that.”
Ms Fitzgerald said it was time to bring in “strong legislation” including vetting legislation. She also said work had to be done to ensure families got the services they needed.
Minister for Justice Alan Shatter said legislation allowing journalists to report on family law and childcare cases when the in-camera rule was amended would be ready for publication in “a few weeks”.