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Health watchdog to probe foster carers over latest claims of child sex abuse

Sex abuse allegations against a small group of foster carers in the Dublin area are being investigated by the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA).

In all, the authority is looking at 19 allegations of abuse -- some of it sexual -- made against foster carers in Dublin North West and Dublin Central.

These include four in Dublin North West and 15 in Dublin Central, according to documents released under Freedom of Information laws.

The allegations came to light in a review of fostering services in health areas in Dublin and Cork. HIQA is to publish a report on its findings within months.

A spokesperson for the HSE said 15 of the 19 investigations were complete. It confirmed that HIQA had found "anomalies" in foster care practice in Dublin and said a plan had been put in place to address the issues.

"As the full report of this HIQA inspection is still awaited by the HSE we cannot comment further on this matter at this time," the spokesperson added.

Concerns about sex abuse in foster care have been raised in the wake of a Herald story last week which revealed that a man who had fostered in Dublin is currently in jail for possession of child porn.

Meanwhile, Fine Gael has claimed that young people in State care face "death by neglect" after it emerged that a 16-year-old boy waiting for psychiatric assessment had been left overnight in an internet cafe by the HSE because there was nowhere else to take him.

Children's spokesman Alan Shatter had demanded immediate action to stop the young boy from falling into drugs, prostitution and an early death.

He said the 16-year-old had been going through the care system for about two-and-a- half years and had fallen into an age band where he was not considered a child or an adult.

He was currently the responsibility of Bridge House in the Ballyfermot region, which was 'care area 5' within the HSE.

"This is a troubled young person who needs serious coherent, co-ordinated intervention and who is being failed."

Emergency social workers dealing with the young man, he added, were "at their wits' end" to get a response from management within the HSE.

"He is becoming drug dependent and he is falling into a street life where he will be exposed to drug running and prostitution."

Deputy Shatter said that on Tuesday night of this week, the young man was "left in an internet cafe all night by the HSE because there was no suitable location to accommodate him. This young man could potentially be another Tracey Fay".

Mr Shatter also expressed concern that a 17-year-old sex abuse victim with severe mental health difficulties had effectively been "cut loose" by the HSE, with officials in both Tralee and Naas refusing to take responsibility for him.

The youth, he said, had been psychiatrically assessed but there was no follow-up, despite the teenager falling into street life in which he was becoming drug dependent.

There was no communication between the two areas involved in the boy's care. "He comes from a background in which it is believed he has been seriously sexually abused and this young man is exhibiting behaviour that has been a cause of difficulty to social work personnel. Essentially, he is cut loose."

Another 16-year-old boy with "severe problems" had been missing for eight days.

The HSE said it would "immediately follow up on both cases" once it received full details from Mr Shatter.