The family is the point of reference for every person, the people that you always have at your side and from which you take refuge in times of need. But what if this were not so? What if the family, instead of being your nest, the place where you take refuge against the adversities of life, is a place of suffering?
Growing up in a serene family should be the right of every child, but it is not so for everyone: the cases of violence and abuse against children in Italy are numerous and often result in the removal of the child or children from their families to protect them.
When parental conduct is particularly serious and detrimental to the physical and psychological health of the children, the former may lose parental authority or parental responsibility, this occurs in particular when
- Cases of serious neglect or abandonment of the children occur;
- The obligations of maintenance, education and upbringing of the children are not respected;
- Failure to consider the abilities, natural inclinations or aspirations of the children;
- Abuse of power in the parenting role occurs, as in the case of abuse of corrective means (humiliation, violence, excessively severe punishment...);
- Violence or abuse occurs.
If the reasons for the loss of parental responsibility are particularly serious (as in the case of abandonment, neglect or maltreatment), the parents of minors could incur even more significant measures, such as the removal of the parent from the child.
In fact, parental responsibility must be functional to the interests of the minor children and, for this reason, may be terminated when the latter are more damaged than protected.
The removal has a preventive purpose in order to avoid creating damage, especially psychological damage in the long term on minors at risk. The judge, therefore, when he is entrusted with the task of judging the request for revocation of parental authority, must assess whether the conduct of the parent is harmful to the minor.
The forfeiture of parental authority is not irrevocable, but rather at the moment in which the reasons for the forfeiture cease and there is no longer any danger of harm to the children, the authority may be reinstated.
In 2018, the most reported crimes are sexual acts with minors (31.5%), sexual violence against minors under 14 years of age (28.0%), child pornography (17.4%), corruption of minors (10.2%), while smaller quotas concern the possession of child pornography (7.3%) and the exploitation and aiding and abetting of child prostitution (5.6%).
The victims of these crimes are predominantly girls: in 2018 they were about 83% compared to 17.3% of male boys.
In addition to these data, it is worth considering that many crimes, especially related to the sexual and family sphere, are not reported out of fear and shame.
Contrary to what is commonly believed, the families of children removed from parental care are not only poor or with troubled histories, but also families composed of parents with excellent working careers and apparently socially impeccable people.
According to the "Regional Index on Child Maltreatment in Italy" compiled by the Italian non-profit organization Cesvi, in September 2020, the regions in Italy most at risk for children are Campania, Puglia, Sicily, Calabria, Basilicata, Abruzzo, Lazio and Molise. Those instead considered more virtuous, and therefore safe, are Emilia Romagna, Veneto, Trentino Alto Adige, Friuli Venezia Giulia, Liguria, Tuscany, Valle d'Aosta and Piedmont.
It is only right, in a difficult year like 2020, to make an aside about how violence and maltreatment against minors have changed. Since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, the needs of the youngest have sometimes been put on the back burner; in fact, although they have been the least affected in terms of health, they have also been the most defenceless and forgotten. The urgency of the disease, the anxieties, fears, and economic difficulties faced by adults have put their needs on the back burner and deprived them of many aspects of their lives, first and foremost a good education.
In particular, in families that were already in a critical condition before the health and economic crisis, the loss of normal routines has often increased conflict, leading to manifestations of decompensation and strong psycho-emotional discomfort that have required specific interventions, especially in support of children.
Now, therefore, it is more important than ever to protect the physical and especially psychological health of children and future generations who will have to live with the consequences of Covid-19 for years to come.
Translated by Francesca Cioffi
Original version by Sofia Perinetti