[WATCH] 'Breakthrough' child protection proposals announced, giving children more of a voice

Child Protection Act proposals have taken on stakeholders' suggestions, will be followed by six-week consultation period, Family Minister said

A new legal framework for a Child Protection Act was announced today, with the proposals being described as a "breakthrough in the field of child protection", containing a number of innovations and taking on board the suggestions of stakeholders in the field.

The proposals are in the draft stage, Family Minister Michael Falzon said, and will now be followed by a six-week period of consultation, where those involved in the field can give more of their input.

"Our common interest in all this is the protection of the minor," Falzon said, "In the formulation of these proposals, we have tried to address all the criticism levied against our existing child protection system."

One of the most important changes contained in the proposals - which have so far been, for the most part, approved by stakeholders - is that the care and custody of minors in need of protection will no longer be in the hands of the Minister, nor of the government, which will have no direct or indirect say on the matter."

Decisions concerning custody will be taken either by the Juvenile Court or by a review board, which will not be merely consultative, but be almost judicial in nature.

The state, however, will remain responsible for taking all the appropriate measures to promote children's well-being and to provide all the support required for children's rights and interests to be safeguarded under the provisions of the Act.

The proposed law will place more of an emphasis on giving children a voice and making sure their opinion is heard.

Falzon said that the first reading of the Bill is planned to take place before Parliament wraps up for the summer break, but he promised that nothing will be published before the end of the consultation period, which opens today and will close on 31 July.

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