Green Party Spokesperson for Justice and TD for Dublin South-Central, Deputy Patrick Costello, has called on the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, Roderic O’Gorman, to provide funding in Budget 2022 for the establishment of a national support service for parents with children in care. His calls come ahead of a Topical being taken on the issue in the Dáil this evening.
Speaking on the matter, Deputy Costello said: “As a former Child Protection Social Worker, I have seen first-hand the effect having a child taken into care can have on parents. It can be a highly traumatic experience, which may often lead to bereavement and loss and to anger towards the Child and Family agency. Parents coping with the impact of a child-protection investigation describe feeling powerless, desperate, angry, frightened, grief-stricken and devastated. For many, they may go from the daily activities such as nurturing, play, and interaction with their child, to utter isolation, confusion, and anger at the system.
“Whilst there are some services operating in this field in Ireland, they are local or provide advocates in only limited circumstances. Other jurisdictions have funded independent advocacy services for such parents. For example, the Family Rights Group in the U.K. are a national service that advises parents and relatives about their rights and options when social workers or courts make decisions about their children’s welfare. They work with parents whose children are in need, at risk or are in the care system and with kinship carers.
“From helping parents to understand their rights and HSE procedures to ensuring they feel listened to and understood, the benefits of empowering and supporting parents would be twofold and would ultimately benefit the child in care. It would assist the parents involved by enabling them to engage more thoroughly with their child’s care plan and meetings, but this would also have the added effect of creating a more stable placement for the child. At a traumatic time, such stability is imperative to a child’s wellbeing.
“I have called on the Minister to provide funding for a National Support Service in the upcoming budget, which would offer one-to-one support for parents and staff accompaniment at care meetings where desired, as well as parent support group meetings in every county. It is imperative that we provide parents with children in care the supports to move beyond the stigma, loss, and trauma they feel in order to enable them to be more involved in matters pertaining to their child’s wellbeing,” concluded Deputy Costello.
*Notes to Editor: Local support Services currently available include ClareCare Advocacy Service for Parents of Children in Care and The Family Advocacy Service, Co. Limerick. Empowering People in Care (EPIC) also aims to advance the interests and welfare of children and young adults in the care system by advocating on their behalf.