Remove Addicts' Children, says Priest
Irish Times, March 24, 2011 by Eithne Donnellan, Health Correspondent
Fr Peter McVerry at Ballymun Youth Action Project's conference on Intergenerational Drug Use.
Photograph: Marc O'Sullivan
CONSIDERATION should be given to taking children of drug-abusing parents away from them until they are in a position to properly look after their offspring, a leading campaigner on social issues has said.
Fr Peter McVerry told a conference in Dublin yesterday he felt very sorry for the children of active drug users as they did not receive the love and attention they needed. It was his view that living in such an environment made children “harder of heart”, leading to less empathy for others in society and greater levels of violence in communities.
He said how the children of active drug users were looked after was a question which therefore had to be debated by society.
“I’m really just putting it out for debate . . . I just see the children, young children, of active drug-using parents and I just feel so sad for those kids,” Fr McVerry added.
“And I think it’s very unfair that kids should grow up in a situation where they’re not really being cared for, they are not receiving the love and affection and the attention that children need because the parents are caught up with their own issues and their focus is on themselves rather than on their children.”
He believed there were two options available. Either give massive support to the families of these children by providing alternative care for the children for a number of hours a day, or remove the children altogether from the family home.
“Or alternatively you take the child away from the parents until the parents are in a position to properly look after the child. People are very reluctant to do that.
“We’re very reluctant to do either of them because of the expense involved, but if we’re going to put children first it is an issue we really have to decide on,” he added.
“But if we’re going to prevent the children of drug-using parents from becoming themselves drug-users, there has to be some major intervention in the life of the child or in the life of the family, or both.”
Fr McVerry said we were now beginning to see the third generation of families where drug use was a problem.
“I’ve seen the second generation. I think they’re much harder to deal with than the first generation.
“There is a hardness there and a resistance there to some interventions that wouldn’t have been there in the first generation, and my fear is that that is going to accumulate as the generations go on.”
He was addressing a conference in Dublin Castle marking the 30th anniversary of the founding of Ballymun Youth Action Project, the State’s longest-running community drugs project. Fr McVerry lives in Ballymun where, he said, the drug of choice was now crack cocaine.
Sunniva Finlay, manager of the Ballyfermot Star community drugs project, told the conference the profile of those now seeking help for drug abuse ranged in age from 17 to 64 years as a result of intergenerational abuse. This posed a challenge for health services, Ms Finlay added.
Children's Rights Vote Urged by Watchdog
Irish Times, March 24, 2011by Jamie Smyth Social Affairs Correspondent
A REFERENDUM to reinforce children’s rights should be held as soon as possible and steps should be taken to tackle escalating child poverty, Ombudsman for Children Emily Logan has said.
Ms Logan also criticised serious structural deficiencies in child protection and health services in a report to the United Nations that will form part of a review of Ireland’s human rights record.
The shortcomings include geographical disparities in the provision of child health services; the lack of an independent system to review child deaths while in State care; and a continued failure to inspect foster care services.
The ombudsman’s submission to the UN says the Government “should proceed at the earliest opportunity to hold a constitutional referendum on children’s rights”.
However, it also states that her office does not support a referendum at any cost. An amendment to the Constitution must make a difference to children’s lives by including the principles of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, it says.
Ms Logan said yesterday she was worried the new Government might move to dilute the wording of a proposed amendment in a manner that would not have the best interests of the child at heart.
She said there was a danger that wording agreed by an Oireachtas committee could be watered down in an attempt to get a Yes vote in a referendum.
“It is important we keep the best interests of the child in any amendment,” said Ms Logan.
The previous government proposed altering the wording of an amendment agreed by the committee to take account of concerns raised by government departments.
The departments feared the wording would prevent the deportation of parents unlawfully in the State and entitle children faced with expulsion from schools to legal representation.
The submission states the most common complaints made to Ms Logan’s office are from children in State care. Many do not have a social worker and encounter difficulties in accessing services to help with their drug-alcohol problems or mental health needs.
It criticises the State’s child death mechanism, which was established last year under the auspices of the Health Service Executive to review fatalities in State care. “This system does not provide institutional independence and should be enhanced,” it says.
The ombudsman says child poverty remains a significant problem. The percentage of children living in consistent poverty – a measure of those living below a specific income threshold and deprived of two basic goods or services – increased to 8.7 per cent in 2009, up from 6.3 per cent.
“Children are more likely to experience poverty than adults . . . and [this] has a wide-ranging impact on their health, education and well-being,” notes the submission. It urges the Government to outline policies to deal with poverty.
The submission will be used by the UN’s Human Rights Committee when it questions the Government on its human rights record at hearings in October.
MAIN RECOMMENDATIONS OF OMBUDSMAN FOR CHILDREN:
Hold a referendum as soon as possible to give greater protection to the rights of children.
Allow the ombudsman to investigate complaints by children in detention and by asylum seekers.
End the detention of under-18s at St Patrick’s Institution.
Set targets for eliminating youth homelessness.
Enhance the scope and independence of the national child death review mechanism.
Enable inspections of foster care services for children.
Prohibit all forms of corporal punishment.