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African children are 20 times more likely to be taken into care - report

The Child Care Law Reporting Project described the figures as “striking” and questioned the effect of the direct provision system on child welfare.

AFRICAN CHILDREN ARE 20 times more likely than average to be subject to care orders according to new research.

The first interim report of the Child Care Law Reporting Project described the figures as “striking”.

It pointed out that of the 333 cases examined, African children represented 11 per cent of cases, rising to 14 per cent in Dublin, despite African people representing only 0.5 per cent of the population.

As with the wider analysis of children in care, there were a variety of reasons for the proceedings in these cases including abandonment or physical abuse.

There were also cases of parents of some of the children in question suffering  mental breakdowns and being hospitalised while in direct provision centres. Director of the project Dr Carol Coulter says that these cases need to be considered in light of the status of the direct provision system:

The prevalence of African families raises questions about the impact of direct provision on children’s welfare, about our integration strategy for immigrants, and the need to ensure that our child protection system is understood.

Neglect

As part of the overall study the project found that child neglect was the number one reason for care orders being sought. The report said that neglect was the primary factor in more than one in five cases.

Neglect often arises from other factors says the report such as alcohol, drug addiction or mental illness, and may be combined with other problems like domestic violence.

Coulter says that mental illness among parents is in itself a significant contributory factor in cases ofchild care orders. “The report shows that mental illness or intellectual disability on the part of a parent features in 12 per cent of cases,” she explains.

“Usually mental illness alone does not account for the parents’ problems. Sometimes this is combined with alcohol or drug abuse and often with social isolation and lack of extended family support.”

Another striking aspect of the report were details on the number of children going into care who have special needs. The report estimates this at one in five of the total number of children in care.

The 333 cases examined by the report represents about 10 per cent of the the total court-ordered child care cases.

Column: Why and how are children taken into State care? >

Read: Child care court reports show drug abuse, violence and mental illness >

Read: I have no plans to end direct provision >

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Rónán Duffy

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