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Children's Referendum - Frequently Asked Questions - Young Fine Gael

Children's Referendum - Frequently Asked Questions

How will this referendum change our society and how it treats children?

The rights of many groups are explicitly acknowledged in our Constitution. Voting YES in the referendum on Saturday November 10th will mean that our Constitution will be altered to better protect and value children. A strong YES vote will send out a message that we value the place of children in our society, that we respect their voice and point of view.

How will the Constitutional rights of the family be altered if the referendum is passed?

The referendum does not amend the current Article 41 on the family; it simply inserts a new article that complements it. This referendum will not take rights from parents. If the referendum is passed, parents will continue to be the most important carers of their children and the family will continue to be the basic unit of society – the State will gain no new parental rights. The amended wording outlines the role the State shall play where the 'safety or welfare' of a child is affected. The phrase 'proportionate means' is introduced, which allows the State to prevent more serious problems developing within a family in difficulty by tailoring their support and assistance to each family, according to their needs. The wording ensures that only in "exceptional cases" where there is clear evidence of child abuse or parents failing to protect their child's welfare, will the state be entitled to take steps to support the family and protect the child.

How will this referendum help to protect children?

This referendum will re-affirm and underpin the continuing development of early intervention and family support services which play a vital role in responding to child welfare concerns and preventing more serious problems arising. This referendum seeks to ensure that to the greatest extent possible, children are protected from harm.

What does the "best interests" of the child mean?

The "best interests" principle is very simple – it is designed to ensure that, when the State makes a decision in relation to a child, that decision will have to deliver the best possible outcome for that child.

In short, it's about prioritizing children. It makes sure that all the facts involved in a case are taken into account, according to the individual circumstances of each child. These might include the child's age, their level of maturity, the presence or absence of parents and the child's environment and experiences.

How will this referendum change the adoption system in Ireland?

This referendum will ensure the equal treatment of children with regards to adoption. It will allow for the adoption of children, regardless of their birth parents' marital status. Over 2,000 children in Ireland have been living with the same foster family for over five years but face legal barriers to their adoption. While not all of these 2000 may wish to be adopted, only 16 such adoptions took place in each of the last two years because the legal barriers were unworkably high. This referendum will give these children a second chance of a happy, secure family life – they deserve it!

Why do we need this referendum?

Decades of discussion and seventeen reports detailing child protection failings in this country have recommended that Ireland needs to alter the Constitution to better protect our children. One of the strongest calls for the referendum was after the Kilkenny Incest Case, as long ago as 1993. Since then, the most shocking and devastating reports by expert groups about child protection failures have highlighted how much we need to incorporate children's rights into the Constitution.

The referendum will strengthen our Constitution's provisions in the key areas of child welfare and protection, adoption, guardianship, custody and access. YFG aspires to make Ireland one of the best countries for any young person to grow up in, and that iswhy we are asking youto vote YES on Saturday November 10th.

Why Vote YES on November 10th?
Vote YES - Funfair Infographic
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