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(File image) There are "growing frustrations" around procuring appropriate placements for children in care. Alamy Stock Photo
child law project

Judge expresses 'utmost concern' for children in unsuitable care due to a lack of places

67 reports from child law cases have identified that there is a lack of suitable placements for children in care.

A DUBLIN DISTRICT Court judge has expressed his “utmost concern for the immediate predicament and welfare of children who are in care” due to reports that there is a lack of available and appropriate placements for children.

In the latest volume of 67 reports from the Child Law Project, it highlights “growing frustrations” around the procurement of safe and appropriate placements for children going into, or currently in, care.

Along with the reports, an accompanying letter from Judge Dermot Simms draws attention to children in unsuitable emergency placements, as a result of the lack of safe and appropriate places, and calls for “immediate and coordinated action” to remedy the current crisis.

The Child Law Project (CLP), which publishes regular reports from courts that make child protection orders, identified key, ongoing themes of parents with mental health struggles, addiction problems, homelessness and domestic violence in their 67 reports.

The reports from the CLP also note of ongoing capacity and overcrowding issues in care facilities which leads to children being placed in unsuitable special emergency placements, something which Simms highlighted in his letter.

Simms, who provided his letter to the project, four ministers and relevant Oireachtas committees, said he was concerned for the welfare of the children and that the overcrowding could lead to the “risk, or indeed likelihood, that the State will face claims in the future”.

CEO of the Child Law Project Dr Maria Corbett said the organisaiton share Simms’ concerns and echoed his call for urgent action.

Dr Corbett said: “Our reports illustrate that the lack of appropriate placements is having a detrimental effect on the care system.”

Unregistered placements

The latest volume of reports also detail ongoing issues around children in unregistered emergency placements, where the same safeguards are not in place, such as inspections. 

Their reports found three cases where a judge granted or requested that a report be prepared and sent to an external body including the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) and the Ombudsman for Children.

In one case, a teenage girl whose parents are both in prison had her unregistered residential care placement ended and was told she could not return from school to collect her belongings, which were placed in black bags.

Her current accommodation was not HIQA approved, she had received no therapy to date and was described by her guardian as “essentially being warehoused”.

“Such practices undermine twenty years of progress and risk Ireland breaching its international human rights obligations,” Dr Corbett said.

Additionally, a nine year old boy in Dublin was placed in a private residential unit in the north-west and was moved to the south-east with only two days’ notice.

In the third case, a judge had to request that a report be prepared in order to determine and investigate how long two children had gone with no social worker involvement and how long overdue the statutory child-in-care review was.

Dr Corbett said the CLP are increasingly reporting on examples where judicial intervention is required to ensure agreed actions are followed through.

“In at least ten cases published today, the judge expresses concern about the actions or inactions of state bodies. We believe this reflects a growing concern and frustration on the part of the judiciary,” Dr Corbett added.

The CLP highlight the need for further investment into children’s agencies, like Tusla and other state bodies, so judicial intervention is required less frequently 

Its reports also illustrate some of the “excellent work” by social workers, foster carers and residential care staff that have positive outcomes for children.

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