Maltese Parliament approves new Child Protection Bill
The Child Protection Bill 45 has gone through the first reading, the Committee stage at length where discussions with experts in the field were held, and has been approved in Parliament on 10 January 2017, following third and final reading.
Having a legislation specifically for child protection, as in other countries, reaffirms that Malta has the protection of the children living in Malta at heart. This bill is a comprehensive bill which focuses specifically on children and the rights of children both living at home with their natural parents as well as those children who are living in out of home care including next of kin fostering, fostering, and residential homes.
The leading principle in this bill is the best interest of the child and this gives a clear message to the public; Malta has the interest of the children at heart and whoever is abusing these children or is acting on their own best interest rather than the interest of the child/ren has to price to pay.
This law, in fact, puts a legal obligation and responsibility on the general public and professionals to report any abuse they witness or are aware of. It also ensures that child abuse is investigated immediately and action is taken within a stipulated time. This ensures timely interventions, which might either result in timely support and help to the families involved so as to stop the abuse or else, in case the parent/s abusing and/or neglecting the child/ren still fail to cooperate, it will result in court orders such as care orders (removal of the child from home), treatment orders or supervision orders.
This bill has another underlying principle – the best interest of the child is for him/her to remain living with his/her natural parents and therefore care orders should be considered as a last resort. For this reason, the bill ensures that parent/s are made aware of the difficulties/concerns that they need to address through a social contract and that the care plan established with the social workers clearly indicates what needs to happen for the abuse to stop within specific timeframes.
Failing to address such issues at the expense of the safety and wellbeing of the child/ren might then result in the removal of the child/ren from home. Parent/s can obviously appeal but more importantly they are given another opportunity to work on their issues. So reintegration of the children with their natural parent/s is possible even after they are removed as long as they address their issues and as long as it is in the best interest of the child. However, failing to do this again, parents face the possibility of losing their child/ren either through permanency or through freeing for adoption.
Children need to feel secure in their placements; their live and stability cannot be put on hold for years. Therefore permanency and freeing for adoption are going to be possible, once the bill is enacted, always as long as it is in the best interest of the child concerned.
Given that Appogg, Foundation for Social Welfare Services, has always held the interest of the children at heart, we fully support this bill and look forward to make it work in practice for the benefit of the children involved.