A study of the experiences of police officers/Gardai when dealing with child protection referrals and the child protection system in Ireland.
Akambadi, Darlington Mainala
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The primary concern of the study was to explore the views of police officers/Gardai who work within the child protection system based on their work experiences as they deal with referrals of child abuse and neglect. The author engaged the Gardai to give their perceptions on the deficiencies, strengths and what they recommend for an effective and efficient child protection system. The study targeted the Gardai because evidence showed that other child protection service providers and users had previously given their views on child protection. However, there was still more research to be undertaken to hear from the perspective of police officers on their experiences in dealing with children who are victims of child abuse and neglect. Qualitative interviews were used as a method of gathering data. A convenience sample of three female and two male police officers was used in the interviews. All the five officers were chosen on the basis that they had some knowledge of child protection issues and practice under investigation. Data collection took place between 25th March, 2015 and 8th April, 2015 at one of the Garda Stations in Ireland. The grounded theory was adopted for data analysis to discover the findings. The main findings showed that progress has been made so far in the adoption of Children First Guidance of 2011 (Department of the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, 2011) with clear procedures, roles and responsibilities. The findings also indicated improved interaction among professionals in child protection and some degree of information sharing which have promoted better multi‐agency working. The Gardai also reported to have received some training in child protection. The results further indicated proper records management and the need for allocation of more resources for key agencies like Child Protection and Family Welfare (TUSLA). However, further evidence indicated the need for more information sharing, provision of services during out‐of‐work hours and more staff to reduce work‐load on social workers in 7 TUSLA. A dedicated Garda child protection unit with specialised training was also deemed appropriate at Garda stations. The results revealed the need for improved accountability among professionals from different agencies during child protection conferences. The findings implied that the positive outcomes have managed to set out and improve child protection practices among agencies who work with children and young people. However, the researcher also felt that the outlined deficiencies were areas which needed further action to be taken for them to be addressed.
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