[WATCH] Child Protection Act will create support network for most vulnerable in society, minister says

Family Minister Michael Falzon said that the essence of the new law was to bring children’s rights to the fore and ensure that children can move forward in life

The Minor Protection Act will be creating a much-needed support network for vulnerable children and will help them move forward in life, despite difficulties they may face, Family Minister Michael Falzon said on Thursday.

The law was approved by parliament on Wednesday, with both government and Opposition MPs voting in favour of it.  

Speaking at a conference in Valletta, Falzon said the law sought to bring children’s rights to the fore, insisting that government and Maltese society, in general, had an obligation to vulnerable children.

“There needed to be a support network for children to help them move forward in life despite the difficulties they may have been dealt,” he said.   

The minister said that the drafting of the law was a long process, with government consulting with various stakeholders in the sector, all of whom had come together to work in the interest of the children.

He acknowledged that the process was a long one but stressed that it was important to take one’s time and do a good job when drafting with legislation that deals with the most vulnerable in society.

Falzon stressed that children were individuals with different emotions, needs and characters and it was therefore important for them to be treated as such. A one-size-fits-all policy would not work, Falzon said.

“I am satisfied that at each stage of the law we consulted with the Opposition on an ongoing basis. I say with sincerity that my colleague [Nationalist MP] Claudio [Grech] and I have been working together for the same purpose. When it comes to children, everyone must work together, or else we would get nowhere,” he said. 

Falzon added that government was also pushing ahead to further the concept of adoption, insisting that he believed that every child had the right to a family that gives them “security, continuity and happiness”.

Moreover, he said that in the coming days, a board would be appointed to draw up a national policy on mandatory reporting, which will include professionals from the fields of paediatrics, the police and education.

Lawyer Andy Ellul, who helped draft the law, explained that one of the principles of the Child Protection Act, was to make sure that protection orders for minors were issued as quickly as possible, and that priority was given to the best interests of the child.

He added that the legislation also included a review board for the protection of minors, the chairperson of which must be a warranted attorney with at least five years’ experience in family law or other areas that include social work.

Ellul went on to say that at least one person on the board, should be a registered person in the field of paediatrics, under the Health Professions Act.

As regards children in foster care, Ellul said the law would now allow foster parents to adopt the children they are caring for after five years.

In exceptional circumstances, and only after three positive review reports, the child may even be adopted before five years, he said.

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