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Foster Care

Cases document foster children facing stress and isolation during Covid-19 restrictions

Social workers, parents, foster carers and children have experienced additional stress in the last six months.

SOME CHILDREN IN foster care have had less contact with their parents during the Covid-19 pandemic, with parents, social workers and foster carers experiencing additional stress last year.

The Child Care Law Reporting Project has published 48 case reports looking at the experience of children kept or taken into care during the second of 2020.

In many of the cases, children and people involved in caring for them experienced additional stress due to Covid-19 restrictions.

For some families, access between parents and children was reduced or in-person access was not allowed during restrictions and some foster carers were concerned about allowing access where they or a household member were at risk from the virus.

Child or parent assessments, which are used by courts to make decisions on children’s care, sometimes had to be cancelled or curtailed.

Director of the Child Care Law Reporting Project Dr Carol Coulter said “it is clear that Covid-19, which has been difficult for all children, has had a disproportionate impact on the most vulnerable”.

“There are instances of children in care being deprived of meaningful access with their parents and of reduced or delayed access to assessments that are essential to planning for their future care,” Dr Coulter said.

“There are cases of parents who might otherwise overcome their problems and be reunited with their children being denied the therapy that would allow them do so,” she said.

Other reports published by the CCLRP include cases where children were hospitalised because of severe infections due to head-lice infestation, restrictions on addiction and therapy services, and isolation of vulnerable children during school closures.

Parents suffering from addiction or poor mental health whose children were taken into care had difficulties accessing support services that would have helped them be reunified with their children.

A significant proportion of cases involve domestic violence.

Some cases see parents facing who faced child care proceedings in Northern Ireland or England coming to the Republic to avoid them, which meant courts had to decide where the case should be heard.

The CCLRP said that it “remains to be seen what impact Brexit will have on such cases in the future, as the legal architecture for transferring cases between EU jurisdictions no longer applies”.

“Most worryingly, this year we have seen instances of severe neglect resulting in children being hospitalised with infection resulting from head-lice infestation,” Dr Coulter said.

It raises the question as to whether the prolonged closure of schools meant that teachers, often at the front line of protecting such children, were cut off from them and the neglect went unnoticed for far too long.

“When planning measures to contain the virus, including early vaccination of the most vulnerable, it is vital that government takes into account the needs of children in care,” she said.

“It should consider early vaccination for child protection workers and foster carers to reduce the impact on these most vulnerable children as far as possible.” 

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