The Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People (NICCY), Nigel Williams, today challenged everyone working with under 18s not to forget that behind professional labels are young human beings.
Speaking at this morning's Southern Health and Social Services Board Adoption Conference in Newry, County Down, Mr Williams said that health and social services professionals, as well as other groups dealing with children and young people, have developed a range of terms for under 18s.
"We talk of children as patients, as pupils, as clients, as statemented, as autistic, as disabled, as challenging, as emotionally disturbed, as looked after, as young offenders, as fostered or as adopted," the Commissioner said. "But we mustn't let these labels hide their essential nature as young human beings.
"These labels and names do, of course, serve the important purpose of trying to convey some of the issues that a child or young person is facing. But sometimes I wonder whether in the process of using these extra words, that we may forget that we are dealing with individual children who happen - like many adults - to have serious needs.
"I saw a poster recently designed by young people that summed it up - 'Children are People Too'!"
Mr Williams said that in his work as Commissioner, he and all the staff at NICCY were determined to try and remember that whatever the issue, they are dealing with children "not a file of papers about a case and not with a diagnosis or assessment that has given a name to a condition".
Addressing the conference delegates he said adoption was important for many families:
"Adopted children and their parents have just as much right to my help as any other children or parents," he said. "I am concerned to pay attention to the most vulnerable children - the 2,500 or so in Northern Ireland who at any one time are 'looked after.
"Each year some 100-200 of those children are adopted. For most of those children, adoption is a success, and provides a much brighter future than remaining in the care of health and social services trusts."
Mr Williams praised the SHSSB for a conference that tackled what can be an emotionally straining issue for everyone involved and for bringing together such an impressive array of international speakers.
Notes for Editors
- Full details of the role and responsibilities of the Commissioner are available on www.niccy.org
- To find out more about the current NICCY consultation visit www.niccy.org/shout
Jonathan Traynor, Media and Public Affairs Officer
Tel: 02890 311616
Fax: 02890 314545
Mob/out of hours: 07973 422583