Troubled teens face uncertain future in care
The mother of a troubled teen sent abroad for specialist care 15 years ago has said that the State has failed to make any progress when it comes to dealing with out-of-control young people who are a danger to themselves and others.
Her remarks came this week as Tusla, the Child and Family Agency (CFA) sought a High Court order to allow a teenager with behavioural problems to be sent to a secure facility in the UK on a Government aircraft.
Her own son was sent to a specialist facility when he was in his late teens but ultimately never received enough support to help him deal with the effects of post-traumatic stress from being sexually abused as a young child.
"When he did go overseas I thought he was going to be a changed person. It did help him in ways, but he came back to the same path," she said.
Now an adult, he has served a sentence for a serious crime and is currently being held on remand ahead of another trial.
This week the CFA sought an order for the High Court to allow a 16-year-old to be transferred to St Andrews Healthcare facility in Northampton, England.
The court was told the boy, who had been engaged in prostitution and is at risk of self-harm, had spent lengthy periods in both secure and non-secure placements in Ireland. The teen has a history of absconding, alcohol and drug abuse, and has been violent towards staff at several facilities.
Details of the boy's history with social services mirrored the concerns of the mother who spoke this week of her fears that little has changed in the intervening 15 years.
Recalling how she and her partner desperately sought help as their son's behaviour spiralled out of control, including self-harm, she feels services in Ireland should have been more developed by now.
"Nothing has changed... Surely they should be well able to look after his needs over here. So what have they done to improve it? You're reading reports after reports that there isn't even enough staff to support them," she said.
When her own son refused to return to the overseas facility after a Christmas visit to Ireland, she said the social services "dropped" him, then aged 18, and said they couldn't do any more. She added that there was no programme developed for him while he was in juvenile facilities in Ireland.
"When they come out, most of them end up homeless and on the streets," she said.
Last month it was revealed by Tusla that 5,000 children are awaiting the allocation of a dedicated social worker.