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African families '20 times more likely' to end up in child care courts – report

NEGLECT is the number one reason for children to be taken into care, commonly because a parent is suffering from a mental illness.

African families are '20 times more likely' to end up in child care courts, according to the first Interim Report of the Child Care Law Reporting Project.

Unveiled by Chief Justice Susan Denham, the report paints a picture of a "cohort of children who need protection and nurture if they are to grow and develop and who are not getting this from their parents for various reasons".

A mere 10pc of child care orders relate to married parents. Almost half involved single parents, mainly mothers, while the rest were cohabiting or separated couples, including formerly cohabiting couples.

The information is based on the analysis of data collected from 333 'in camera' cases between December 2012 and July 2013.

The most recent information shows that in 2011, 3,358 children had been put into care, with 2,797 children informally in voluntary care – generally living with relatives with the agreement of their parents.

The reason for children being taken into care was often "multiple", the report found, with mental illness the single most common reason for children being neglected, and intellectual disability also a significant contributor to child neglect.

Neglect was often combined with alcohol or drug abuse, domestic violence or homelessness. In the most severe cases, young children were found in filthy circumstances, unresponsive and clearly delayed in development.


One young child had been diagnosed with an intellectual disability when taken into care. That disappeared after he had spent a year in foster care.

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A mere 3.6pc of cases related to children from the Traveller community, although the report pointed out it had no way of determining ethnicity other than through the evidence. The report noted that one in five of children taken into care had special needs, usually psychological or educational.

The authors expressed concern over the "disproportionate number" of African children who were the subject of proceedings, representing 11pc of the total number of cases, rising to 14pc in Dublin.

Some of the children were unaccompanied minors or had been abandoned in Ireland by their parents. Among the cases were three older African children abandoned by their parents – or trafficked here by people claiming to be their parents – and who were "grateful" to end up in foster care.

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