A businesswoman whose children were removed by social workers on foot of allegations that were later retracted has received an acknowledgement from Tusla of "inconsistencies" in the case and an apology for procedural "discrepancies".
The woman lost custody of her two youngest children to her former husband following what she says were false allegations of physical discipline and conflict. The children were returned to her custody two years later.
An independent review found that while the case did not breach the child protection guidelines in force at the time, there were overall inconsistencies and a communications breakdown that there appeared to be no attempt to retrieve.
It said social workers "could have demonstrated more empathy" with the mother, noting: "The professionals are expected to have the skills in actively listening, empathy, and the training to engage with their clients. This was not evident with the duty social workers or the duty team leader."
It noted that the language used in interactions, correspondence and emails about the mother tended to be "pejorative and authoritarian" with a "judgemental tone". And it found indications of "a hostile element to the mother as a person, evident in the tone of emails in the records reviewed".
The mother, who runs her own business, cannot be named for legal reasons. She said she was highlighting the issues identified in her case to help other families.
She said her involvement with Child Protection Services between 2012 and 2014 had a dramatic and lasting impact on herself and her children, that she was "not listened to, given voice or respected" in her dealings with child protection services.
"The Tusla intervention has had a devastating effect on my family. It has destroyed my credibility as a parent to my children," she said.
"The interruption to their family life, their education and their mental wellbeing, has been dramatic beyond description," she added.
Her children were placed in a home that was "unsuitable", she said.
"My trust in social workers was misplaced."
The mother lost custody of her children more than eight years ago, against a backdrop of conflict and difficulty with her former husband. Her eldest son alleged to gardai that she "physically chastised" the children when she was stressed.
Social workers subsequently intervened with the family. They found the children's accounts of conflict and physical discipline to be credible.
The children were moved from their mother's home to live with their father who applied for and won custody, in a family case supported by the social workers.
According to the independent review, his home was "unsuitable" for the whole family and allowing the children to be placed there "did not essentially help the children in the long term. Given the difficulties and tensions within this family, not just the adults, this only served to exacerbate the issues and frictions already in place".
The children later retracted their allegations against their mother and following an allegation by one of the children, a Tusla inquiry resulted in a finding of "non-wilful" neglect on the part of the father. The children were returned to live with their mother "with immediate effect".
Following complaints from the mother, an independent review of her case was conducted in 2016. It noted her belief that social services perceived her as a "bad mother" and did not take into account the background to her marriage break-up and the events that may have led to her then 17-year-old son going to gardai.
It emerged at the time that the child protection notifications for the three children were issued before a case conference had taken place, in breach of procedures.
The Health Service Executive, the responsible authority at the time, apologised.
The reports and reviews of the case were released to the mother of the children in January of this year.
In an accompanying letter, Tusla's director of quality assurance "regretted" any lack of high quality recording, acknowledged the "inconsistencies" in the case and noted that the mother had received an apology for the "discrepancies" in procedure.
In a statement this weekend, Tusla said that it could not comment on specific details: "When any member of the public enters into a relationship with the public services, they are rightly entitled to expect that information generated in that relationship is treated in confidence. This is critically important in the subject matters in which Tusla is involved. Tusla can confirm that an independent review was commissioned and completed and as with all reviews, it identified areas for improvement. We are satisfied that learnings have been implemented."