An investigation into how family support provided by Ireland’s Child and Family Agency is represented in Ireland’s print media
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The aim of this thesis is to critically analyse how the media portray family support provided by the Child and Family Agency (Tusla) in Ireland. In phase one, a newspaper content analysis was conducted on a broad range of national and regional Irish Newspapers over four years which described communication about family support services provided by Ireland’s Child and Family Agency. This is a relatively unknown area of study since the establishment of Ireland’s new Agency. Results showed that although child protection was not used as a specific search term, news items on the Agency and family support were usually directed more towards child protection and children in care. This is important because how the media communicate and frame family support as part of the overall child welfare system is one of the main influences on public understanding and awareness of preventative family support and child welfare services. In phase two, findings from qualitative interviews with journalists and Agency workers found empathy for each other’s roles signifying there may be potential for collaboration to better understand each other’s responsibilities. More positive reporting on good practice in Governmental inspection and review reports is recommended to ensure families in need of support could see that positive procedures and structures are embedded within the Agency. Such reports are often used as sources by journalists who could in turn highlight more positive aspects of the child welfare system. The study also shows the Agency could benefit from proactively promoting their own good news stories consistently in order to change negative perceptions of the Agency. The research shows the importance of better understanding of family support and child protection so that families can access services in a timely way, seek help when they need it and get interventions early that are preventative as well as protective and legal as required.