In an article published in the Irish Times on Monday December 11th 2017, Helen Buckley spoke about the many reasons why Children’s First Legislation -Mandatory Reporting of child abuse will put children at greater risk.
She said that the perverse consequences of this legislation may indeed outweigh its benefits due to the current under resourcing of social workers and their lack of availability to address any increase in reporting.
I would just like to give a different perspective on the need for mandatory reporting of suspected child abuse and why I believe it is at very least an important step in the right direction.
Although Tusla is greatly under resourced and this government and those who went before them fail to protect children. Doing nothing is not the answer. Waiting for yet another report or more evidence that children are in danger is simply scandalous.
Not having adequate reporting structures in place and not providing training for all those working and or caring for children to be able to identify a child at risk is just not good enough. Leaving individuals with the question of ‘who and should I report my suspicions to’? is not going to help anyone.
Knowing that the system that is in place can not handle its current workload is beyond reprehensibly. But it is still not a good enough reason for leaving individuals who suspect and in some cases, know that a child is at risk say nothing to no one only continues to encourage a culture of no accountability.
When I was 7 years old my father raped me so badly that I developed a prolapsed womb and when, at my mother’s instance my parents brought me to hospital to be examined, the doctor that carried out the examination did not report it, he did nothing.
When my sister Joyce told our family doctor when she was 16 that my father was abusing her he did not report it, he did nothing.
When my sister June told a priest in confession what my father was doing to her, he did not report it and again did nothing.
I am not saying that mandatory reporting would have resulted in stopping my father but what I am saying is that at the very lease it would have created a chain of accountability that could be followed and traced back and those individuals that did nothing could be held to account.
Mandatory reporting alone will certainly not solve the many problems of child abuse. Inadequate training provision and lack of political will all need to be challenged. We all have an equal responsibility to report suspected child abuse. We should not require reporting child abuse to be mandatory but unfortunately, we do. The fear of getting it wrong, along with a culture that still exists of minding your own business and not interfering in your neighbours life is not a strong argument for not reporting your suspicions. The risk of getting it wrong is outweighed by the benefits of saving even one child from a life of suffering.
Governments fail time and time again to understand the importance of properly resourcing those agencies that take care of our most vulnerable. The cost of not doing so is a price we all pay. If the cost to society of not providing adequate services to children and all victims of abuse were truly understood, then funding those services would never even be questioned. Mandatory reporting is such a small step to help children, but at lease it is a step.
Paula, December 14th 2017