Tuesday 22 August 2017

Girl left in foster family despite abuse claim

Disabilities Minister Finian McGrath TD Picture: Tom Burke
Disabilities Minister Finian McGrath TD Picture: Tom Burke
Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

An intellectually disabled teenager was left with a foster family for two years after the foster father was accused of child sexual abuse.

The delay was due to a series of major failings by State agencies responsible for her protection, a damning report revealed yesterday.

The investigation highlighted yet another case of a vulnerable young person falling through the cracks, despite the involvement of the HSE, Tusla and a voluntary disability organisation in her care.

The teenager, known as 'Mary', was left in the home while other foster children were removed.

It found that in January 2014 an allegation of sexual abuse involving two teenage girls 15 years earlier was made against the foster father - but Mary, who required a high level of support, remained in the home until February last year.

The report, jointly commissioned by Tusla and the HSE, uncovered a litany of weaknesses. The fact the girl turned 18 in 2013, and was technically no longer in State care, compounded the confusion.

It revealed:

* Tusla in managing the risk to Mary should have escalated the case to senior decision-makers instead of dealing with it at middle managerial level where powers were limited;

* There was a lack of clarity about the boundaries of responsibility between the various organisations;

* Tusla felt it had no longer any legal power to deal with her placement as a result of her age and the HSE Disability Services needed to look after her care;

Although Tusla regarded the allegations against the foster father as credible, the plan to safeguard Mary was "unreliable". It involved him temporarily leaving the family home. He also agreed to stop administering personal care to her. But Tusla had no power to "spot check" the arrangements. His wife accepted her husband's denial of the allegations;

A review of the case was started by Tusla in 2015 but the time to complete this "was considerable".

In response to the report Tusla said yesterday that a joint protocol to improve the way the various agencies work together is now in place.

Disability Minister Finian McGrath said Tusla has agreed to meet the cost of young people aged 18 moving from care to adult services until the end of 2017.

"Thereafter, all such young people, and indeed future cohorts of children in State care moving into adult services, will transfer to an appropriate HSE funded service upon turning 18," he said.

Irish Independent

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News