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Irish Childhood Bereavement Network

“The launch of this Network offers Ireland an opportunity to change the way it approaches childhood grief and could make a significant difference in facilitating the delivery of the appropriate resources for each grieving child.”

Frances Fitzgerald, Minister for Children and Youth Affairs.

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On Monday 23rd July 2012, the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Frances Fitzgerald, launched the Irish Childhood Bereavement Network, an initiative which is being hosted by The Irish Hospice Foundation. 

In total, between 36,000 and 60,000 Irish children could have experienced a significant bereavement.  While no official figures for childhood bereavement in Ireland exist, it is estimated that in 2011 alone 3,360 16-year olds may have experienced the death of one or both parents and a similar number have experienced the loss of a sibling. 

The Irish Childhood Bereavement Network (ICBN) is a hub for those working with bereaved children, young people and their families in Ireland.  The aim of the network is to facilitate easy access to a choice of high-quality local and national information, guidance and support to enable children and young people to manage the impact of death and loss in their lives.  Visit the ICBN WEBPAGE CLICK HERE 

Members of the ICBN have a role in making this aim a reality and, through their subscription to the network, members aim to collaborate to:

  • Increase access to bereavement information, guidance and support services relevant to children and young people
  • Share their expertise, knowledge and experience to inform and support others
  • Improve the range and quality of bereavement support available to children, young people and those who are caring for them

Membership is open to any interested individual or organisation who endorses the agreed vision and guiding principles. 

The Irish Hospice Foundation has agreed to host the Irish Childhood Bereavement Network for its first two years and will also seek to source funding for its on-going development. 

The ICBN acts as a keystone for our members’ partnership by:

  • Signposting professionals and the public to sources of bereavement support, clearly stating the specific needs each service can address
  • Supporting professionals to find and share knowledge and resources they need to deliver high quality, effective, safe, evidence-based, accessible bereavement support
  • Advocating for bereaved children, young people and those supporting them, influencing policy, practice and public understanding
  • Informing the general public of the key issues involved in children and young people’s loss and how they might support this group
  • Generating new ideas and approaches to improving bereavement support for children and young people through education, research, policy and practice development

The network will:

  • Respect the diversity of its members
  • Be a listening and learning network
  • Inform the work of its members by the experience of children, young people, their families and those supporting them
  • Ground its approaches in evidence from research
  • Add value to our members work
  • Work collaboratively, both nationally and internationally

As members, we share the following principles when working with bereaved children and young people:

  • We acknowledge the child or young person’s entitlement to grieve and to have their grief validated
  • We do not seek to protect children from loss and grief, but instead strive to facilitate their grief in a manner which promotes self-esteem and self-confidence and develops communication, decision making and other life skills
  • We locate the child within their personal environment (family, religion, culture) and consider these factors before making any intervention
  • We ensure that appropriate family permission and involvement is seen as an integral part of the services we provide to children
  • We promote resilience in children
  • We acknowledge that grief is a normal response while also being aware of conditions or symptoms that may lead to difficulties in grief which require more formal intervention
  • Before working with a child or young person, we consider the advantages and disadvantages of utilising any intervention, drawing on evidence based practice and/or standards where available
  • We work within our own competency and refer on as appropriate
  • We are aware of issues relating to working with children and young people and adhere to safe, ethical and legal standards of practice and conduct
  • We have a clinical supervisor and colleagues with whom we can consult
  • We continue to update our skills, keeping abreast of current developments in bereavement theory  

 Support for the ICBN was confirmed through a study Establishing a Children’s Bereavement Network in Ireland.  A scoping study which was commissioned by The Irish Hospice Foundation, funded by the Family Support Agency (FSA) and conducted by Dr. Kathy McLoughlin.  The study noted a lack of emphasis in government policy on children’s bereavement support provision and found that, while there were some strengths, the current delivery system also had significant weaknesses.

The weaknesses identified in the system included inequality and fragmentation of services, particularly outside Dublin, long waiting lists for more complex bereavement support needs, the lack of any comprehensive directory of services and the lack of any forum to exchange information and knowledge. 

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