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Irish Child Deaths

June 21, 2012 permalink

In ten years 196 children died in Ireland under the watch of their child protectors, the HSE, Health Service Executive. The Irish Republic, with 36% of Ontario's population, reports only 20% of the deaths of children known to the system. The report's credibility is enhanced by 115 instances of the word father and 303 instances of mother. Most bureaucratic reports on child protection never mention these two words. There are no names of deceased children, just 68 numbered cases.

A news article is enclosed, the full report is Report of the Independent Child Death Review Group (pdf).



Report into child deaths in State care 'a litany of shame'

Frances Fitzgerald
Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Frances Fitzgerald at the launch of the report of the Independent Child Death Review Group at the National Library in Dublin. Photographer: Dara Mac Donaill/The Irish TimesMinister for Children and Youth AffairsFrances Fitzgerald at the launch of the report of the Independent Child Death Review Group at the National Library in Dublin. Photographer: Dara Mac Donaill/The Irish Times

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has described a highly critical report into the deaths of 196 young people who were in contact with the State's care services as a "litany of shame".

The report of the Independent Child Death Review group focuses on the deaths of young people in contact with the State’s child-protection services between 2000 and 2010.

Of the 196 deaths, some 112 died of non-natural causes such as drug overdoses, suicides, road incidents or unlawful killings.

“Ultimately and tragically the efforts to protect these children failed,” the report said.

Among the key findings are that:

  • The majority of children in the review did not receive an adequate child protection service;
  • Some files were in “complete disarray”, with little or no records as to what happened when to some young people, especially those in aftercare;
  • The HSE closed files on some children, even though they were aware of ongoing drug and alcohol abuse within their families, which placed young people at risk

Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald today described the findings of the report as "deeply disturbing" and pledged to implement reforms to strenghten the child-protection system.

Ms Fitzgerald said it was "totally unacceptable" the State could not even tell how many children had died in State care until the report was ordered.

She said the veil of uncertainty and secrecy has finally been lifted and shone a light in a dark, often unexamined and tragic corner of Irish life.

“I do not expect today’s report to bring closure,” she said. “Indeed, I am sure it will, for many, bring pain.”

The report – written by Norah Gibbons, director of advocacy with Barnardos, and Geoffrey Shannon, a solicitor and specialist in child law - calls for reviews into the handling of a number of cases to ensure lessons are learned and that other vulnerable teens receive the kind of support they need.

The Health Service Executive (HSE) today acknowledged failing in child protection structures and work practices.

The organisation's national director of Children and Family Services, Gordon Jeyes, said he strongly supported the report's recommendations on the need for a more effective multi-disciplinary working and reliable partnership among those who provide services to vulnerable young people.

"There are undoubtedly cases of poor practice and systems failures illustrated in the report. There are also examples of staff members who went to great lengths, and beyond their professional duties, to support children," he said.

"The report is very clear that there were deficiencies in a number of services including the core role of Children and Family Services. We must address these deficiencies and learn from past mistakes."

Speaking in the Dáil, the Taoiseach said each case was a story of shame and many focused on complex social issues, including with family circumstances, drugs and mental health.

“This is obviously an independent report, and I commend Geoffrey Shannon and Norah Gibbons for the clarity and the research and the analysis that they have carried out in respect of what is a harrowing tale and a litany of shame in many respects that’s happened here,” he said.

The report also states there was evidence of good practice in what, in many instances, were very complex cases. A considerable range of services was often made available, while individual staff made real efforts to intervene and build relationships with young people.

Too often, however, there was a sporadic and inconsistent approach to dealing with vulnerable children, the report found.

Ms Fitzgerald said the Government was committed to transparency and honesty about the challenges in getting children’s services right.

She pledged to make a series of reforms including:

  • Strengthening the entitlement of children in care to aftercare services once they reach 18;
  • Establishing a new child and family agency that will take responsiblity for child protection away from the HSE;
  • A nationwide consistency of approach in practice and implementation of guidelines over the handling of child welfare and protection cases;
  • Use of standardised definitions, criteria and thresholds for reporting and referrals including prioritisation of cases;
  • Improved resource allocation responsive to changing needs;
  • Clearer management and budgetary accountability;
  • Better workforce planning, training and induction of new staff

Source: Irish Times