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Why do children end up in care in Ireland?

A new website looks at cases from Irish courts where children ended up in care. Here are some of the stories.

Posed by model
Posed by model

A NEW WEBSITE that gives an insight into how children end up in care in Ireland has gone live – and the reports show the varying and often tragic reasons behind the decision to put care orders in place.

No names or identifying details are given in the District Court reports on the Child Care Law Reporting website, so those involved remain anonymous.

A look at the cases shows the various reasons and family circumstances that lead to children ending up in the care of the HSE, or care orders being put in place.

Five placements in three years

One case involved a five-year-old boy with multiple emotional and psychological needs who had five foster placements in three years. His mother wanted her son returned to her, and brought a Section 47 order with her in relation to this. The child was brought into the care of the HSE at the age of two and his fifth placement had broken down.

The question was whether he should have another foster placement or go to England to live in a residential care centre. Among the evidence heard in the court was that the boy could not walk or talk when first placed in care, but now his cognitive abilities are fine. However, he cannot tolerate ‘emotional over-investment’ and the HSE psychologist said that the child is very challenging and needs a residential placement. The child was observed being afraid of his father.

Therapeutic residential care does not exist in Ireland for his age group.

The judge ordered that the child be placed in a residential centre and the case was adjourned.

Care order for Roma children due to domestic violence

Another case looked at why an Interim Care was granted for two Roma girls, as there was domestic violence in their home.

There were concerns from the social work department about the children not having adequate food and heat; one of the girls had taken her father’s medication on two occasions and been admitted to hospital. She said she wanted to kill herself and also said that she was concerned “her father was going to take her to his country to be sold”.

There was a concern about the other girl’s ‘over-sexualised presentation for someone her age’. The court heard that the mother “lacked awareness of the impact of witnessing domestic violence on the children” and there was possible child sexual abuse of the older girl by the father.

An Interim Care order, which their mother was opposed to, was granted due to the exposure of the children to domestic violence and their neglect.

HSE management of case criticised by judge

In another case, the judge criticised the HSE management of the situation, saying there had been “a shocking lack of management”. He pointed out that there had been four or five social workers appointed to a case involving a “particularly vulnerable” teenager who is in a secure care facility.

The teen was described as “one of the most vulnerable children in the state”. In response, the HSE solicitor said that a crisis had arisen in another case which led to the HSE doing their best in “an environment of contracting resources”.

The child’s Guardian ad Litem gave evidence of changes of social workers in the past and said that in her opinion the management had been incompetent.

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The case was adjourned for three days, after which the HSE was represented by a Senior Counsel who said that a long number of hours had been spent in ensuring the suitability of the social worker being appointed to the case.

A senior HSE executive told the court that the child’s case was now held in a long term social team with no agency or temporary workers.

Public debate

Twenty eight cases can be read on the website. The site contains the statistics for child care applications made and granted to the District Courts in 2011, which show that the total number of applications received in 2011 was 7,928, of which 41 per cent were received in Dublin.

The next busiest courts were Cork (774 orders granted), Waterford (457), Limerick (347), Galway (223) and Letterkenny (225).

Dr Carol Coulter, who is leading the project, told TheJournal.ie that the site will permit people to see the reasons why children end up in the care of the HSE, without making public their identities.

She said that the plan is to collect and analyse data from the courts, report on the child care proceedings and promote a public debate on the issues raised through seminars and conferences.

Read: Website to publish court reports on child care cases>

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