Wednesday 20 February 2019

Fears of sexual abuse led to two young boys being removed from foster care

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Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

A pre-school boy and his younger sibling were removed from their foster carer by the child and family agency amid fears he may have been sexually abused in their care.

Details of the matter were outlined in a District Court in a rural town where the judge was informed of an emergency change in the foster placement. Tusla acted to remove the children amid evidence the boy had sustained a non-accidental injury.

The case is one of 38 detailed in a volume of reports published today by the Child Care Law Reporting Project. Other cases highlight issues such as suspected forced marriage and trafficking in care cases. In six cases the issue of homelessness was a factor.

The project, led by Dr Carol Coulter, has been reporting on child care matters since 2012. The boy and his younger sibling had been on interim care orders over the previous six months due to allegations of neglect against their mother.

She was expecting a third child and allowed supervised weekly access with her son. At one access meeting, both the Tusla access supervisor and the mother noticed significant bruising around the young child's face.

When asked, the foster parent was unsure how it had occurred but thought it may have happened when the child fell on a wooden toy. The child was brought for a GP consultation, where the doctor found the injuries inconsistent with the explanation.

He was then referred to the local consultant paediatrician where he was admitted to hospital for further assessment for five days. The consultant confirmed non-accidental injury and, based on the child's responses to bruising on the back of his legs and buttocks, raised the issue of sexual abuse.

Two days later a Garda strategy meeting took place and it was agreed a Garda specialist interviewer would speak to the boy in hospital in the presence of a Tusla social worker and the hospital's sexual assault unit's forensic physician.

The boy made no disclosure regarding how he sustained his injuries, but the forensic physician could not rule in or out child sexual abuse.

The court heard the two foster children were removed from their carer and a Tusla child protection team was assessing both the concerns of physical and sexual abuse. However, no action would be taken regarding the foster carer's two birth children until the assessment was concluded.

In relation to other cases in the latest tranche of reports, the project said drug and alcohol abuse and domestic violence continue to play a major role in decisions by Tusla to seek interim care orders, often followed by applications for full care orders.

Irish Independent

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