Are you a child protection social worker? Here’s what you need to know about the “best interest” principle when writing your next Court report.

The Childcare Amendment Act 2022 is a new piece of legislation which amends the Child Care Act 1991. A key feature of this new Act is the replacement of section 24 in its entirety with section 4 of the Child Care Amendment Act 2022.

In this article, Denise Kirwan, Partner at CKT and Cliona O’Brien, Trainee Solicitor at CKT give an overview of this new “best interest “checklist.

So what has changed?

Section 24 of the 1991 Act referenced the child’s welfare which was to be of paramount consideration in all Court proceedings. Section 4 of the 2022 Act has since replaced the wording from child’s welfare to ‘best interest of the child’. This language encompasses a broader approach of the court to be considered which is in line with international children’s rights principles.

Furthermore, section 4 now details various factors to be considered when determining what is in the best interest of the child. This offers helpful guidance for those involved in child care proceedings.

These factors include;

(a) the child’s age, maturity and any special characteristics of the child,

(b) the benefit to the child of having a meaningful relationship with his or her parents, and with any other relatives and persons who are involved in the child’s upbringing,

(c) the views of the child where he or she is capable of forming, and has chosen to express, such views,

(d) the physical, psychological and emotional needs of the child,

(e) the social, intellectual and educational needs of the child,

(f) the religious, spiritual, cultural and linguistic upbringing and needs of the child, and

(g) any harm which the child has suffered or is at risk of suffering, including harm as a result of household violence, and the protection of the child’s safety and psychological well-being.

Section 4 applies to all child care proceedings including special care proceedings and was enacted on the 22nd of September 2022. Overall, it seeks to give effect to Article 42A of the Constitution which was enacted by way of the Children’s referendum 2012.

This new checklist should be used when drafting Court reports and lends focus to practitioners when asking the Court to evaluate what children in care need during their care experience.

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