Sunday 25 August 2019

Record 26 children died while in State care

Dr Helen Buckley
Dr Helen Buckley
Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

A record number of children who were in care or known to social services died last year, a new report has revealed.

There were 26 deaths and three serious incidents involving children and young people who were linked in some way to the child protection system.

Two were killed by someone else, eight died by suicide and five lost their lives in road traffic accidents, the national review panel tasked with overseeing the deaths reported.

One child died from an overdose and eight from natural causes. Other causes were due to accidents or as yet unknown causes.

Most deaths were in children aged 11 to 16, and there was a slight increase on previous years in the deaths of infants under one year.

Three of the children who died were in care at the time of death and four were in aftercare. The remaining 19 were known to child protection services. The report said: "It is notable that the three young people who died while in care all died from suicide."

Three times more boys than girls died. In the case of one tragic 19-year-old, it found he had been in care since he was eight and he had died from an overdose.

In another tragedy, a 15-year-old who lived with a parent had spent a short time in a high-support unit and had died of an overdose.

An 18-month-old child died in a domestic accident.

Another young person, whose case was tracked over 11 years, found their needs were not met through contact with the HSE child care services.

Too much responsibility was left with the family and frontline services were weak. An overview of cases since the review began its work in 2010 found a series of failings.

These included a poor quality of assessments of risk and the best ones were carried out by outside agencies. There were weaknesses in the way information was gathered and in the analysis of findings.

In half the cases, there was a difficulty in engaging with families and young people.

"This is clearly a challenging area, particularly where families are angry and hostile and where their expectations surpass what can be offered."

The potential for developing relationships was often hampered by the change of social worker.

The review team, chaired by Dr Helen Buckley, found that in some cases undue optimism was demonstrated along with a tendency to repeat the same measures or recommendations regardless of how ineffective they were previously.


Reviews found that children were placed in foster care without sufficient thought being given to whether they meet the children's needs. In one in three cases there was a lack of information passed between the various agencies involved in the care of the child.

Between 2010 and 2014, over a quarter of the deaths were from suicide and in some cases there were warning signs or previous incidents of self-harm.

All child protection and welfare practitioners need to be comfortable with addressing suicidal tendencies and vigilant about ensuring, as far as possible, that children or young people are able to avail of therapeutic services, said the report.

Irish Independent

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