TWO YOUNG CHILDREN who entered the care system in 2014 later disclosed alleged sexual abuse by 11 different people including their mother and father.
Their story is one of 16 case studies published by the Child Care Law Reporting Project (CCLRP). The children in this case, who were both of primary school age, were told in December 2015, 18 months after coming into care, about interim care orders that had been secured.
It was at this time that they made disclosures of abuse by 11 named individuals, including their mother, their father, two male relatives, a female relative, three teenage girls and two other men. They also alleged another female relative was present when they were abused.
As a result of these allegations, the couple’s newborn baby was taken from them six months later under an emergency care order.
A specialist garda child sex abuse interviewer spoke to the children and Tusla, the child and family agency, applied to the court for the DVDs to be used as evidence, rather than hearing directly from the two young children.
This was granted by the judge. In the DVDs, the two children described in detail being forced to perform oral sex on the adults and being raped by some of them. They also gave detailed physical descriptions of all the adults involved.
Although their parents acknowledged they had a problem with alcohol, resulting in the children’s poor attendance at school and neglect, they denied any physical or sexual abuse. Five of the adults named by the children gave evidence, all denying there had been any sexual abuse in the house while they visited, though they accepted a lot of alcohol was consumed. This case will resume later this year.
Bullied and threatened
In another case at Dublin District Court, the judge heard two teenage boys in foster care were being regularly subjected to beatings, bullying and harassment and were threatened with having their throats cut or being shot by people in the community.
They were in the care of a close relative.
The judge heard how numerous efforts had been made by Tusla and the foster carer with the local council and the council in a neighbouring county where the boys attended school, to have the family rehoused, but with no success. Both councils had been summoned to attend court but one of them did not.
The older boy is approaching his 18th birthday and the purpose of the hearing was to discuss his aftercare plan.
The court heard that the council in the neighbouring county had offered a house that was uninhabitable and when that was refused had put the family on the bottom of the housing list. The older boy’s GP had reported that his life was at risk and recommended that the foster carer should move out of the area due to the bullying and harassment.
The foster carer gave evidence that the teens were afraid to go to the shops or leave their front door due to fears of bullying, harassment and threats. She claimed that “their education is being destroyed as they can’t go outside the door” and have to go over the back wall. She went on to describe how the younger boy had chest pains, although a cardiologist found nothing wrong with his heart, that the older boy had panic attacks. She said she had to drive both boys around in the middle of the night to help them to sleep.
The guardian ad litem said this boy had turned out wonderfully and had the potential to go to college and get out of his circumstances.
The judge praised the commitment of the social worker and said the court would do all it could to assist the family. She advised Tusla to issue a further witness summons to the council in the neighbouring county giving seven days’ notice and outlining the consequences of a bench warrant where failure to attend was not due to a reasonable cause.
Serious mental health case
Another case included in the reports involved the absence of an aftercare plan for a girl with mental health needs who would turn 18 within two months. The girl (A) had been in care since infancy and required on-going supports in terms of accommodation, health and well-being, personal and social development, education and family support.
The girl had been a resident in a medium secure psychiatric hospital in the UK for a number of months, her case had been described in the High Court as a “serious mental health case”.
The hospital in the UK had crystallised a risk regarding her transferral back to Ireland and said a sensitive discharge was required with safeguards to be put in place. “The key here is to get a clinical pathway lined up carefully,” said senior counsel forTusla, “and an education curriculum for the right exams.”
Two weeks later the court heard during the Minors’ Review List that although the girl was considered ready for discharge by the UK unit, no onward placement had been identified in Ireland. Counsel for the guardian ad litem told the court that he was seeking to list the matter for hearing at the first opportunity in the next term [after the summer recess] in order to have an onward placement identified.
When the case returned to the Minors’ Review List four weeks later and no aftercare plan had been produced the judge gave a direction to Tusla to put in play their statutory function and produce the plan within two weeks, noting that clinical progress was very dependent on aftercare being put in place, therefore aftercare was “imperative”.
The case continued over the following weeks with Tusla reporting further efforts to find a suitable placement. When the case resumed in January counsel forTusla said a placement had been identified the night before, Tusla had informed the other parties that morning and there was a psychiatric report before the court with sensitive insights into A’s state of mind which were clearly relevant. However, the judge said it was not sustainable in the light of the need for a long commute to her educational centre.
“I need to know that in light of the fact that a number of secure care placements have come on stream that adequate planning has been done because effectively they have no onward placement when their time there is completed,” the judge said.
“We have children remaining in secure care when there is no ongoing placement for them and it is not their role when they have done their part and then the CFA [Tusla] have failed to produce the goods at their side”.
“It is an issue that arises every week in this court particularly in light of new secure care placements available and a lack of planning at the other end of it. Matters are to be dealt with on affidavit as to what is being done with the onward placement. In fact the problem is even greater than before due to the new secure placements,” said the judge.
In January the court heard that the girl was in a placement and attending an educational centre. The court asked Tusla to ensure that she had appropriate transport to the centre, which was some distance away.
‘Lack of planning’
The CCLRP said in many instances such cases come back before the court repeatedly over many months, and the reports show the frustration of the judges hearing them as they attempt to order Tusla to find solutions.
In one case the judge commented:
The lack of planning continues, substantial resources are invested into giving the children the appropriate care they need in secure care and [then] the potential is nearly ripped out from under their feet at the lack of onward placement, and the level of uncertainty is causing undue stress to these children.
In relation to another, the judge said there has to be a recognition “there is a failure to deal with this, this is not the first time a judge has said this over the years”.
“Over the last 25 years it is constant and children with a particular presentation have no facilities in this State to meet their needs, resources are an issue, a bespoke solution for every child is perhaps not available.”