Published online by Cambridge University Press: 04 March 2021
In Italy there has been no explicit debate about errors and mistakes in child protection, nor is there a system for reviewing fatal and serious cases, as there is in many of the countries cited in this book. Generally speaking, the debate tends to address failures of the system or emerging problems in society, rather than specific professional misconduct. Discussion and doubts about failures and uncertainties seem to develop only within individual child protection teams. Apparently, the problem in Italy is non-existent; or more precisely we may say that it is unspoken. In order to discover this characteristic of the Italian perspective, this chapter will first outline the context of the population, the welfare system, the organisation of the Italian child protection system and provide a brief overview of its development, with a focus on child removals. On this basis, the second section illustrates how errors and mistakes are acknowledged in child protection in Italy. The third section focuses on the effects that publicly apportioning blame might have on child protection, and serves as a bridge to the description of the responsibilities and main strategies adopted to tackle and prevent errors. Some considerations of the unspoken character of the Italian approach to errors will conclude the chapter. Because of the lack of specific studies, this chapter is mainly based on the author's years of experience in the field, as both a professional and an academic, and on analysis of existing materials, with the abiding hope that further research will be carried out.
According to Istat (2018), in 2017, the Italian population numbered 60,500,000 persons, of whom 10,008,033 were children under 18 (16.6 per cent of the overall population). Italy is an ageing country, with 21.7 per cent of the population aged over 65 and a steadily declining birth rate since 2008. Families are becoming smaller and ‘long’, decreasing in breadth, growing older and more unstable. Single parents are on the increase (totalling 15.8 per cent in 2016, compared to 5.5 per cent in 1983), and so is the rate of separations and divorces (+63 per cent from 1996 to 2015) involving almost 65,000 children. The economic crisis has had a strong impact on levels of family poverty; 10 per cent of households and 14.3 per cent of children were living in absolute poverty in 2013, with an evident impact on educational performance (UNICEF, 2014).