The Barnardos Guardian ad Litem Service 20th Anniversary Conference

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Barnardos Guardian ad Litem Service

20th Anniversary Conference

Getting the balance right: Proportionality, timeliness and decision making in child care proceedings.

The 1991 Child Care Act is 25 years old. Since its enactment we have seen the purposive interpretation of its provisions in the district and superior courts in the context of the Irish Constitution, the UN CRC and the ECHR. The 31st amendment to the Irish Constitution is the most recent development in this regard, the effects of which remain to be fully realised. At the core of these developments is the need to constantly ensure that the child’s voice is heard in effective ways that are meaningful.

In parallel the reports of the Child Care Law Reporting Project have given us, for the first time, a window into and an overview of the decision making processes in child care proceedings. From the reports it is apparent that for practitioners and decision makers, navigating a path between the sometimes conflicting imperatives of the law on the one hand and the evidence from practice and research on the other can be daunting. In this challenging space issues of proportionality and timeliness are critical.

The question of proportionality is increasingly being addressed in judgements across all courts as judges strive to ensure that where children have been harmed or are at risk of harm, that the proposed legal remedy is appropriate, necessary and no more than is required while complying with national and international law – the minimum necessary intervention.

Timing is equally crucial – balancing the child’s developmental need for speedy resolution leading to permanence with parents’ need for time and support to effect positive change where possible.

The conference will be a learning event at which we hope to enhance our understanding of the legal framework on the one hand and on the other to engage with evidence from the practice and research about the impact of court decisions on the lives of children and their families.

The conference will be of interest to Tusla practitioners and managers; psychologists and mental health professionals; barristers, solicitors and judges; courts service and Legal Aid Board; children in care and aftercare advocacy services, guardians ad litem; Department of Children and Youth Affairs and legislators.

Keynote speakers and topics:

Dr Katherine Zappone, Minister for Children and Youth Affairs

Prof David Shemmings, Professor of Child Protection Research, University of Kent:

“How misconceptions about attachment can impede or facilitate decision-making”

Dr Chris Beckett, Associate Tutor, University of East Anglia:

Speed and thoroughness in child protection court proceedings – findings from the Tri-borough pilot”

Caroline Shore, Lecturer Applied Social Studies UCC, Guardian ad litem:

“Child removal decision-making systems in Ireland”

Constantine O’Leary, Judge of the District Court:

“Perceptions from the bench”

Brian Barrington BL:

Children’s rights, parents rights, best interests, proportionality and permanency”

Fred Mc Bride, CEO Tusla:

“The Child Care Act and Tusla: the challenges of court proceedings

Freda McKittrick, Guardian ad litem, Barnardos:

“20 year reflection and vision for the future of the service”


Can I speak to the Judge” Children in Care ; an experiential perspective of participating in court proceedings.

The conference will run from 9.00am – 4.30am in the Hogan Mezzanine Suite, Croke Park.

Programme to follow.

Cost: 30 Euro

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