Nearly 200 children go missing while in state care
Up to 196 children in state care went missing in the first six months of last year and four were still not found by August, it emerged yesterday.
The children were being looked after in various settings including residential centres directly run by the Health Service Executive (HSE), while others were in foster care, support lodgings, hostels or aftercare.
Health Minister Dr James Reilly said that as of August 6 four of the children were still reported missing and he has asked the HSE to give him a report on their whereabouts.
Dr Reilly, who was replying to a parliamentary question from Caoimhghin O Caolain, said the vast majority of children who go missing are returned within a few hours or days.
Eight in 10 are returned within 24 hours, 92pc are located or returned within 72 hours and 94pc are back within four days.
"The young person may be unsettled, may not have yet built trusting relationships with their carer, and their carer may not be familiar with family and associates of the young person.
"The HSE has advised that, due to difficulties with data collection and the inconsistency of information provided, the information in relation to children missing from care is not available for 2009 or the latter half of 2010," Dr Reilly said.
"The HSE has assured me that from January 2011 it will introduce a standardised risk assessment tool to ensure comprehensive data collection on children reported missing.
"A summary of the first six months of 2011 will be provided to the Health Information and Quality Authority in July. The HSE has also agreed a new protocol with An Garda Siochana which provides an improved set of procedures to enable effective joint action," he added.