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Abstract

The Inquiry Report of the Roscommon Child Care Case (HSE, 2010) was the first Inquiry Report into intra-familial child abuse and neglect in the Irish context to explicitly identify a gender dimension to its findings. This paper seeks to build on these observations and argues that an analysis of the gendering processes that underlie understandings of and responses to neglect, violence and abuse can make child protection policy and practice more effective. The absence of an analysis which places gender at the core of policy and practice in child protection and family support raises serious questions about the differentiated responses to women and men who are subject to and perpetrators of violence, rape and abuse. Constructions of femininity and masculinity within child protection which systematically excludes fathers and mitigate sexual abuse by mothers must be addressed in order to enhance the support offered to parents and the quality of protection available to children. In addition a discourse of ‘mother-blaming’ which renders women responsible for matters over which they have little control and the reinforcement of men’s power when their abuse remains invisible in professional interventions are the unintended consequences of ignoring the gender dimension of work in this challenging field. The findings of this paper suggest that a gender lens may contribute to better practice in child protection and the greater likelihood that children will be protected and parents supported, each according to their need.

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