Shortfalls for Children of Separated Parents in
Justice Committee Report on Draft
Children & Family Relationships Bill
(Dublin, Wednesday 9 July 2014) One Family – Ireland’s organisation for one-parent families and parents sharing parenting – welcomes the publication of the report from the Justice Committee on the Children & Family Relationships Bill 2014 tomorrow. With over 40 years campaigning for legal recognition and support for the wide diversity of families that children in Ireland live in, One Family believes that this Bill is long overdue. The focus now should be to ensure that it is passed as quickly as possible to meet the urgent needs of children and parents though it is disappointing to note that some important issues such as ancillary reports to courts and child safety were not highlighted in the report.
Karen Kiernan, One Family CEO comments: “While this Bill is progress, it is disheartening that the Justice Report contains no mention of the need for ancillary services to the family law courts, especially Child Contact Centres which are necessary to ensure safety of children in contentious custody disputes. One Family published an evaluation of its pilot Child Contact Centre scheme in March this year and highlighted this need at the Committee hearing on 9 April. The Courts do not yet have access to professionally conducted family assessments in order to make evidence-based, child-centred decisions that will be safe, enforceable and fair. This has yet to be addressed for the safety of children.”
Stuart Duffin, One Family Director of Policy & Programmes, comments: “This report is a missed opportunity in a number of respects. Government places ever greater emphasis on the importance of children having meaningful relationships with both their parents yet the report fails to explore ways to mainstream services to support this in the face of family separation, especially for low-income families. When parents separate, benefits and allowances attach wholly to one parent or the other, with often the non-resident parent – most usually the father – becoming ‘invisible’ other than as a source of income. The report is not addressing this imbalance which has huge consequences for separated parents and their well-being, and that of their children.”
The Children & Family Relationships Bill will need to acknowledge the need for greater cooperation of services aimed at building broad local partnerships. It should result in quality, professional supports to cover the wide range of needs of families during separation and after, and when accessing the family law courts. It should ensure that legislators are equipped to make evidence-based decisions with children’s needs at the centre of these decisions.
Otherwise, while a step in the right direction, additional costs will be incurred to the State down the line while the Bill fails to fully deliver for children of separated families.
One Family’s Child Contact Centres Key Learnings can be read here: http://www.onefamily.ie/wp-content/uploads/One-Family_Child-Contact-Centre_Key-Learnings.pdf
The Executive Summary of the Evaluation can be read here: http://www.onefamily.ie/wp-content/uploads/Executive-Summary-December-2013.pdf
About One Family
One Family was founded in 1972 and is Ireland’s leading organisation for one-parent families offering support, information and services to all members of all one-parent families, to those experiencing an unplanned pregnancy and to those working with one-parent families. Children are at the centre of One Family’s work and the organisation helps all the adults in their lives, including mums, dads, grandparents, step-parents, new partners and other siblings, offering a holistic model of specialist family support services. These services include the lo-call askonefamily national helpline on 1890 622 212, counselling, and provision of training courses for parents and for professionals. One Family also promotes Family Day and presents the Family Day Festival every May, an annual celebration of the diversity of families in Ireland today (www.familyday.ie). For further information, visit www.onefamily.ie.
Available for Interview
Karen Kiernan, CEO | t: 01 662 9212 or 086 850 9191
Stuart Duffin, Director of Policy & Programmes | t: 01 662 9212 or 087 062 2023
Shirley Chance, Director of Communications | t: 01 662 9212 or 087 414 8511