Public should report any suspicions about child's welfare, says Minster
on 23/10/2013 13:15:41
Her comments come after it was confirmed today that a second child taken from a Roma family in Ireland has been returned to his parents.
The Minister said that, while she could not comment on individual cases of children being taken into State care, she insisted the child's best interest is always paramount.
"As Minister for Children, I would be encouraging people to report if they are concerned about children," she said.
"We are going to put Children First (national guidance for the protection and welfare of children) on a statutory basis to make sure if there are real concerns about child abuse of child protection that they are reported. It is extremely important that the public are vigilant.
"Child protection is at the centre of any decisions that are taken, where gardaí or social workers act in cases where children are taken into care,.
"It's always about child protection and the best interest of the child."
The Minister said there are currently 6,000 children in State care in Ireland - a number that has been rising.
"Children coming into care unfortunately is a common occurrence in Ireland at present, but compared to other countries we do not take many children into care," she said.
Ms Fitzgerald added that there had been "shocking figures" highlighting the level of unaccompanied children arriving in Ireland over the last 10 years.
She said that, while these numbers are now "going down dramatically", the state has a series of supports in place for trafficked children.
"It's a reflection of a worldwide problem," she said.
"That's a very serious issue worldwide, the trafficking of women and children, and Ireland is not immune to that.
"Obviously every action has to be taken to investigate all the circumstances where such an incident occurs."