Tuesday 24 April 2018

Horrific abuse at 'Grace' case foster home and health service failings revealed by reports

(Stock picture)
(Stock picture)
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

A report being published tomorrow lays bare horrific injuries suffered by an intellectually disabled girl at a foster home in the south east and the failure of the health service to intervene on her behalf.

It also details allegations that another service user at the home was locked in a cupboard under the stairs.

The report found heath service service staff failed in their duty of care towards the woman, who was left in the foster home for 20 years despite evidence she and other children were being abused.

The girl, now a woman known as Grace, was allowed remain in the home in the south east for 13 years after an allegation of sexual abuse was made against her foster father.

She was also not removed despite presenting at day services with unexplained bruising and a black eye, according to a report by consultants Conal Devine and Associates, which has been seen by independent.ie.

A commission of investigation into the affair is expected to be announced shortly.

Action was not taken even though health workers noted in the mid-1990s that the girl would strip off her clothes and engage in other “chaotic behaviour”, such as wolfing down her food, stealing dinners and headbutting other children.

A second report also being published by the HSE tomorrow, by consultants Resilience Ireland, details allegations that a second child was locked in a cupboard at the home by the foster mother.

The Devine report was unable to get to the bottom of why a decision taken in April 1996 to remove the girl from the home, on account of the sexual abuse allegation against her male carer, was later overturned.

The Resilience Ireland report looked at the experiences of 34 other children who spent time at the home.

The foster family applied to take children for respite breaks under a scheme set up in the 1970s.

But Resilience Ireland said they didn’t think the foster family were ever approved to be full time foster carers.

The consultants also said they did not think that health services in the area carried out necessary checks, such as checks on who was living in the house, the sleeping arrangements and the living conditions

It said respite care was supposed to be for short periods, but at least three children, including Grace, who was there for 20 years, spent lengthy periods there.

In 1985 the family was approved to be foster carers and allowed take up to two children for holiday respite during the months of July and August.

The consultants said they did not think they ever got approval for more children than this or to care for adults.

Despite this, about a third of the children placed there were referred by health services in the area. Other children came from special schools and other services for the intellectually disabled.

Other families paid for their children to go there privately.

In 1985 the family provided placements for at least 14 children, by 1986 it was 19. During 1987 there were at least 20 children, with one child staying for ten months.

Of those interviewed by Resilience Ireland, one complained of physical abuse.

Four said there was overcrowding, while 16 said the arrangements for staying and leaving the home were not very good.

Seven people said there was not enough supervision, but 18 said the foster family were very good.

Some service users and their families did not want to be interviewed.

In another case, where abuse was reported in the 1990s, the family now lives abroad and the case was said to be under investigation by gardaí and a police force in the UK.

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