Keywords: Article 12 UNCRC – child care proceedings – child participation – children's rights – adversarial
Article 12 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child 1989 provides that all children capable of forming views should have those views seriously considered in any decisions that affect them. Once expressed, the views of the child should be afforded due weight in accordance with his or her age and maturity. Every day in Ireland, decisions are made in the District Court concerning where a child will live and who they will live with in cases where their wellbeing is considered to be at risk. In such cases, the child’s views should form a key component of the assessment of their best interests. This article presents the findings of a national empirical study which explores the individual perspectives of professionals who are directly involved in such proceedings. In particular, it aims to highlight the extent to which children are actually heard in such cases and whether the current legal framework and its practical implementation are Article 12-compliant. Based on professional experiences, the manner in which children are heard in practice in this adversarial setting will be explored with a view to reform.