Readers like you keep news free for everyone.

More than 5,000 readers have already pitched in to keep free access to The Journal.

For the price of one cup of coffee each week you can help keep paywalls away.

Support us today
Not now
Wednesday 29 November 2023 Dublin: 2°C
Young Boy via Shutterstock
Children in Care

'Little appreciation' from State that Luke was at risk of harm while in care

Tusla, the child and family agency has published four reports into the deaths of children in State care.

TUSLA, THE CHILD and family agency has said there were “considerable shortcomings” in the case of a young man who died, who had been in the care of the State for almost 10 years.

One of four reports on the deaths of children in State care published today details the case of Luke who had been signed into the voluntary care of the State when he was almost 10 years old, and remained there until his 18th birthday.

The report says Luke was described as a “young person full of contradictions” by those who knew him – he could be “charming and had a good sense of humour” but he also had “emotional difficulties” and suffered mood swings.

His mother had learning difficulties which made her unable to care for her children and Luke lived with his father and severely disabled sister until his father’s death when he was nearly 10. He then went to live with other family.

The young boy’s delayed development was picked up when he was an infant and he attended language therapy as a young child. He was also referred for psychological assessment because of “emotional and behavioural difficulties”. At seven years old, his school raised concerns about possible sexual abuse with the HSE but a review team was unable to follow up on this because of poor records.

Luke’s behavioural and learning difficulties continued and he later disclosed sexual abuse by his father. At 15, his foster placement broke down after an alleged incident of physical abuse by his foster carers.

Involvement in crime

Years of instability for Luke followed this breakdown including violence, stealing, absconding and begging. He started abusing drugs and spent time in an emergency hostel for homeless young people in the inner city.

His extended family became concerned for his safety and welfare and went to court to seek adequate support for him. The court directed he should have a psychiatric evaluation; however “no appropriate mental health service was available to conduct it”, according to the report.

He was subsequently referred to a psychiatrist specialising in learning disability but refused to attend.

When Luke was 18, he was allocated an aftercare worker and it was recognised by the HSE’s social work department that his placement in the emergency hostel was unsuitable and his capacity to live independently was judged inadequate.

His relationship with his family deteriorated and he had no other social supports in his life.

After his 18th birthday, he spent three separate periods in prison and at one point indicated his intention to undergo drug treatment but deferred it and returned to crisis accommodation after his release.

The report said he appeared to manage well initially, showing now signs of substance abuse at first but within two weeks he died tragically of a drug overdose.

Poor response by State services

Tusla’s report on the young man’s death found there was “little evidence” that developmental and mental health issues identified in Luke at a young age were adequately addressed when he was placed in care. It also said the “poverty of record keeping” by the Social Work Department made it difficult to evaluate the extent of action taken to address his situation as a young child.

Further failures were identified in the department’s lack of involvement in choosing a foster placement for Luke, as it was chosen by his extended family. The report said his placements were not matched to his needs.

There is “no indication of how or whether the SWD responded to disclosure by Luke at 15-years-old, that he had been sexually abused”.

The department was criticised for not meeting the “dangerous situation” of the young man’s living arrangements when he was in emergency homeless accommodation with the “level of urgency required”.

There was little appreciation of the fact that Luke was at risk of significant harm for considerable periods while he was in the care of the State. There is an absence of any corporate response to a child at heightened risk.

Speaking following the publication of the for reports into the deaths of children in State care or known to the HSE, Paul Harrison, Director of Policy and Strategy at Tusla said this particular report reflects the “considerable shortcomings in supporting and protecting a vulnerable young person who was in desperate need of support throughout his life”.

“Focused well-planned, multi-disciplinary action was required and did not take place,” he said.

He added that the State support “did not happen and we must acknowledge this and apologise”.

Reports into deaths of five children in State care due today

Your Voice
Readers Comments
    Submit a report
    Please help us understand how this comment violates our community guidelines.
    Thank you for the feedback
    Your feedback has been sent to our team for review.