Neglect is top reason children taken into care
THE most common reason for children to be taken into care is neglect, often compounded by substance abuse or mental illness.
A new report has also found that African families are '20 times more likely' to wind up in the child care courts, with abuse the common trigger.
The first Interim Report of the Child Care Law Reporting Project, launched today by Chief Justice Susan Denham analysed data collected from 333 cases between December 2012 and July 2013.
It found just ten per cent of the cases concern married parents. Almost half of the cases involved single mothers while the rest were co-habiting or separated, including formerly cohabiting couples.
There were 3,358 children in care on foot of court orders in 2011 however a further 2,797 children were in voluntary care, mostly with relatives.
One in five of the children taken into care have special needs, usually psychological or educational.
The report expressed concern over the 'disproportionate number of African children who were the subject of proceedings, representing 11 per cent of the total number of cases, rising to 14 per cent in Dublin.
Some of the children were unaccompanied minors or had been abandoned in Ireland by their parents. Amongst the cases were three older African children abandoned by their parents or trafficked here by people purporting to be their parents and who were "grateful" to end up in foster care.
Others were the children of residents of direct provision centres who suffered mental breakdowns and were hospitalised, leaving the children without a carer.
In some cases, the children came to the attention of social services, typically after teachers spotted bruising.
Project director, Dr Carol Coulter said the prevalence of African families raises questions about the impact of direct provision on children's welfare, about our integration strategy for immigrants and the need to ensure that our child protection system is understood.