Child Protection Systems in Ireland Children First Guidelines These guidelines inform practice in the Child Protection Area in Ireland Free Summary available from Local HSE (Health Service Executive, formally known as Health Board Also available online at www.doh.ie What is Child Abuse? Neglect – Unmet needs: food, warmth, shelter, nurture, safety Emotional Abuse – Unmet needs for affection, approval, security Physical Abuse – Where a child is assaulted or injured deliberately Sexual Abuse – Where a child is used for sexual gratification Key Agencies “The health board and An Garda Siochana are the key agencies empowered by law to carry out the assessment and investigation of suspected child abuse. Each agency manages the responsibility within their brief and their joint efforts ensure that the protection of vulnerable children receive priority attention. The separate and complementary roles require careful understanding if the shared objectives of child protection are to be realised. An Garda Siochana have the additional responsibility of bringing abusers to justice” (Section 9.1.1) Reciprocal Reporting If the HSE suspects that a child has been physically or sexually abused, or willfully neglected, they must notify the Gardaí immediately If an Garda Siochana suspect that a child has been physically or sexually abused or neglected (either willfully or unintentionally), they must notify the HSE Immediate Sharing of Information Neither agency should await confirmation of abuse prior to notification. The procedures to be followed are detailed in the Children‟s First Guidelines All information exchanged between the two agencies is treated with utmost confidentiality Responsibilities The HSE has overall responsibility for the assessment and management of child protection concerns An Garda Siochana has responsibility for the investigation of alleged offences, and also has power to intervene to protect children in emergencies and to remove a child to a place of safety. Working Together Both agencies must work closely together to best meet the needs of children who need protection from abuse. The Health Service Executive (1) The HSE is an agency of Central Government and has responsibilities for securing the care and safety of children. Under the Child Care Act 1991, the (HSE) has statutory obligation for the protection and welfare of children including: – Accepting reports of concern in relation to child welfare and protection – Actively assessing such reports – Taking appropriate action if the report is confirmed The Health Service Executive (2) The Child Care Manager is responsible for coordinating child protection services in each HSE area, including receiving all notifications of child abuse. Civil Court Child protection proceedings take place in the civil courts and require proof on the balance of probability An Garda Siochana An Garda Siochana will be involved in all child protection cases where it is suspected that a crime has been committed. They hold overall responsibility for the direction of the criminal investigation. The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP)is responsible for the decision to prosecute or not. Criminal Court The Criminal Courts require proof beyond reasonable doubt that the defendant is guilty of the offence. Emergency Care Order The Child Care Act 1991 (Section 12) also gives An Garda Siochana powers to apply to the courts for an emergency care order if it is deemed insufficient to await an application by the HSE, and if they have reasonable grounds to believe that there is an immediate and serious risk to the health/welfare of the child. Power to Enter An Garda Siochana have the power to enter, without warrant, and use force if necessary to enter, any building or structure and remove the child to safety (i.e. into the custody of the HSE). This act also enables Gardaí (and the HSE) to recover any child unlawfully removed from care. The District Judge may issue search warrants in this regard. Protections for Persons Reporting Child Abuse Act, 1998 Under this law nobody will be penalised for making a report of child abuse to the relevant authorities as long as the report is not malicious and their intentions are genuine Reporting a concern is not making an allegation If you suspect that a child has been, is being harmed or is at risk of harm, and most especially if a child makes an allegation of abuse, do not attempt to investigate or question the child. The appropriate action is to report your concern/the child‟s disclosure and leave it to the designated experts to investigate. You can report a concern without naming any „alleged offender‟ Need to Act Remember, if adults do not act in accordance with their child protection duties, the burden is left with the child!