The impact of violence and abuse witnessed or experienced in childhood can last a lifetime.
Where a child is in the care of Tusla, and where there is a history of violence or other forms of abuse, the Courts may order, or social workers may arrange, for access to be supervised to ensure safe oversight of the access visit.
I am deeply conscious of, and sensitive to, the concerns of parents who have experienced domestic abuse. Having to arrange for their children to meet with the other parent can be difficult and worrying.
This was highlighted in a report I launched for Women's Aid last month, which suggested that as many as one in five women were under threat of abuse from a violent partner during access visits. This is shocking.
My own Department and the Department of Justice and Equality have been engaging on this issue for some time.
I am convinced of the need for the provision of safe child contact spaces when they are needed for protective purposes.
My Department has embarked on work to firstly assess exactly what facilities and supports are available for families in this situation.
Child Access Services exist through the Family Resource Centres. Preliminary indications are that at least 42 Family Resource Centres provide some sort of service for access visits.
These have grown up in an organic and ad hoc way and are dependent on the facilities and staff available within a Centre. For example some Family Resource Centres provide a pick up and drop off service which helps in the avoidance of contact between parents, if that is desirable.
I want to build on the services available through FRCs and expand the number of locations where a child's right to have access to both parents is preserved in a safe way.
The Deputy may also be aware of the Time4Us service in Galway which is a family access service. Following the resolution of funding and governance issues the service has now been absorbed into the ARD Family Resource Centre.
I understand that this is operating very successfully and is now facilitating even more families than originally planned. Parents and children are also participating in other activities in the FRC outside of the family access service. This is a very positive benefit of being part of the FRC.
Family breakdown is difficult for children. Parental separation can take a toll on children. I am keen to support children and families as much as possible and to keep them safe if there is evidence of family violence.