Monday 20 November 2017

Tragic end to lives of vulnerable teenagers left in the State's care

Edel Kennedy

DAVID Foley (17), Kim O'Donovan (15), Tracey Fay (18) and Danny Talbot (19), all died while in the care of the HSE.

All were vulnerable teenagers who needed structured and long-term care.

They are four of the 23 children who died in the past decade while in the care of the state health services.

David Foley died of a drug overdose in 2005, three years after being admitted into the care system. He had voluntarily sought care at the age of 14 and ended up being admitted to a series of emergency hostels for homeless teens in Dublin's city centre.

Last year, the HSE initially told his family it would only publish the recommendations of a report into its controversial handling of the case.

However, Children's Minister Barry Andrews has pledged on a number of occasions that the report itself -- or as much of it as is legally possible -- would be published.

Kim O'Donovan was just four days short of her 16th birthday when she was found dead from a heroin overdose in a Dublin bed and breakfast on August 24, 2000.

It emerged afterwards that there had been a litany of failures in her care. In April 1998, on foot of a High Court order from Mr Justice Peter Kelly, she was placed in Newtown House, a secure high-support facility in Co Wicklow.

Days later she wrote him a letter saying she felt "totally alone and helpless" and asked for more help. She had asked to be sent back to St John of Gods but she never got a reply to her letter because staff at Newtown House did not pass her letter to the judge.

Also, when she went missing a warrant was issued for her arrest. But the health board failed to tell gardai where Kim had said she was staying.

Tracey Fay -- a mother-of-two -- died of a drug overdose in a coal bunker in Dublin in 2002.

She had first come to the attention of the social services when she was just eight months old but was formally put into care at the age of 14.

In the four years she spent in the care of the State she gave birth to two children, went missing 23 times, was taken to hospital numerous times and spent 255 nights in 20 different B&Bs.


Earlier this week a leaked report into her care stated that ultimately the first six months of her care had been so chaotic that she had gone off the rails.

Danny Talbot died last year after a drugs overdose at the age of 19.

Melissa Mahon (14) was killed in 2006 by Sligo man Ronnie Dunbar while she was in HSE care. He was found guilty of her manslaughter in May 2009.

Figures released last year by the HSE showed that 22 children who were placed in the care of the State died between 2000 and 2008, while the death of Danny Talbot is the only case to come to light since then.

Four of the 22 died from suicide, five from drug overdoses and one was killed by a third party.

The killing of Melissa Mahon led to a manslaughter conviction.

In the same period, one child died from heart problems relating to Down Syndrome, another from cancer, two from leukaemia and one from an asthma attack while asleep.

One child died from the complications of a severe disability; another young person died from a brain tumour, and another died during an operation.

Another young person was killed in a hit-and-run accident and another had a brain seizure.

In 2008 two children in the care of the State died, one from leukaemia.

The HSE refused to provide details of the second death. It said a "critical incident review" was carried out after the child's death.

Irish Independent

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