Is it teething time for your little one?
As mums, we understand that each child deserves a happy childhood. However, children are currently 'missing' from the Irish constitution. This has allowed the suffering of vulnerable children in Ireland to go unnoticed. The constitution currently tells children that they should be seen and not heard, however on November 10th we can declare in one voice that the people of Ireland, especially us mums, value childhood. All children deserve to be protected, respected and heard and by voting yes, this referendum can deliver that.
 
Here are some important questions that we asked before deciding to vote yes.
 
Why is a Constitutional amendment necessary? Could this be achieved through legislation?
 
Yes, a Constitutional amendment is absolutely necessary if we are to develop a more robust child protection and welfare system. While changes to legislation can and have been made to enhance the support and protection of children, this does not go far enough. The Constitution, as the highest law in Ireland, is the foundation on which all our laws are based. So a change to the Constitution is needed to ensure more child centred laws and judicial decisions into the future.
 
Why is listening to children important?
 
Over the past 30 years, Ireland has seen 17 different reports detailing our failure to protect vulnerable children. The common thread running through all of those reports was how we, as adults, failed to listen to children, believing they should be seen and not heard. Listening to those children when they spoke up about the abuse or neglect that they were suffering may have helped to prevent the abuse or neglect continuing or happening to others.
 
How would the referendum change the way that children are currently treated in court?
This amendment would ensure that a child has the opportunity to have their views heard by the court. The child's views would be given due weight in accordance with their age and maturity. This does not mean that the child's views are the deciding factor: as ultimately, the decision rests with the judge or relevant professional.
 
How will changing the constitution help support families?
Changing the constitution will allow Ireland to switch from a system that seeks to judge if a parent has failed, to a system that bases services on the needs of each individual child. It will focus on crisis-prevention, early intervention and family support services that give children the best opportunity to grow up in a safe and loving environment.Allowing the State to support families when they are in need, rather than waiting until they are 'in crisis'' is a key way in which changing the constitution will help protect vulnerable children. 
 
How will the amendment impact adoption?
This amendment will allow children who are currently denied the opportunity for adoption, because of the marital status of their birth parents, a 'second chance' of having a stable and secure family life through adoption. The constitution currently effectively prevents the possibility of adoption for the children of married parents. This means that there are up to 2,000 children in Ireland who are unable to return to their own families (for a variety of reasons such as physical abuse, or parental dependency on alcohol or drugs), and who cannot be adopted by their long term foster carers.
 
The Children’s Referendum takes place on 10th November. Now that you are aware of the facts and why you should vote yes for our children we are asking you to join us in taking a stand to protect children. We need you to pledge that you will vote YES and to put your name to it. For more information and to pledge your support click here.
 

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