Tag Archives: foster care

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Finance Minister Michael Noonan at Fine Gael’s Long Term Economic Plan launch in Dublin this morning

On Tuesday, in the Dáil, United Left Alliance TD Clare Daly raised the case of ‘Grace’ and the foster care home in Waterford in which she suffered extreme physical and sexual abuse for many years.

She remained in the home for 13 years after other children had been removed because of concerns raised.

Ms Daly told the Dáil:

“In 1996 a decision was made by the social workers on the ground to remove that young woman. That is a fact which is backed up. We know that subsequently the foster father contacted the then Minister for Health, Deputy Noonan, and petitioned to have what he called his “beloved daughter” kept with the family… A documented case conference decision to remove that young woman from the foster home before August was subsequently reversed in October 1996 and the young woman, Grace, remained there up until 2009. People need to know who made that decision and who will pay the price for it.”

Ms Daly added:

One of the whistleblowers at the centre of this case has made the point that, sadly, it is not the only such case. In his opinion, it represents dozens of others in the same region over a 20 to 30-year time span. It is fair to say there is a systemic problem in the HSE. It is very much the old attitude that when the church or State is threatened, the response is to say nothing, admit nothing, call in the lawyers and see what happens.”

Further to this, Finance Minister Michael Noonan spoke to Richard Crowley on RTÉ’s News At One and Mr Crowley raised the matter of the letter…

Richard Crowley: “As you know, Clare Daly raised an issue in the Dáil this week. This was in relation to the abuse allegations in the South East area and she mentioned that a letter had been written by the foster father in the controversy, directly to you as Minister for Health, this was in 1996, by the foster father. Can you, I know it’s 20 years ago and you received lots of letters, thousands of letters at that time no doubt, have you had a chance to check you files or do you have any recollection of that case? At that particular time? Or at any time you while you were minister for health?”

Michael Noonan: “No, I’ve no clear memory of it but I did check the position of Department of Health and seemingly two letters arrived, one to me, and one to the junior minister for health, Austin Currie. And the letter, to me, I contacted, I got my officials to contact the South Eastern Health Board and my understanding of it was the person would be removed from foster care. But subsequently, information came through that there was some kind of appeal and that that didn’t happen and then, after that, because it was a question of the possible abuse of a child, the data was given to the minister of state who had responsibility for children. And I’m not sure what happened after that.”

Crowley: “So you had no further contact with the issue or the people involved?”

Noonan: “I’d no further contact after that and I didn’t have the power to direct and I didn’t direct. But the initial information I got was that yes, there was an issue and the child was removed. And, subsequently then, I forget the exact details but it was some kind of  appeal process and the decision of whoever took it down in the South East wasn’t implemented at that point and then it went on to Minister Austin Currie.”

Crowley: “Minister Noonan, thank you very much for coming in…”

Listen back in full here

Clare Daly claims foster father lobbied Michael Noonan (Irish Times)

Previously: Still In The System

Clare Daly transcript via Kildarestreet.com

Sam Boal/Rollingnews

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Director General of the HSE Tony O’Brien

You may recall how the HSE repeatedly told the Public Accounts Committee it had apologised to ‘Grace’ – the mute woman with intellectual disabilities who suffered extreme physical and sexual abuse while she was in a foster care home from 1983 until 2009.

The Irish Examiner, on Monday, January 25, reported that the whistleblowers involved in the case claimed the HSE, in fact, had not apologised to Grace.

On Saturday, January 30, the HSE released a statement admitting no official apology had been given to ‘Grace’ or her mother – or the 46 other people who had contact with the foster home over the years.

Further to this, Fianna Fáil TD and chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, John McGuinness, on Today with Seán O’Rourke, said:

“We got a letter into the Public Accounts Committee, from the HSE, which basically rubbished the report that was written by the Irish Examiner, and referring to the apology as one of ‘for the poor quality of service’. These individuals, allegedly, were raped, abused and treated in the most abominable way and then, after that, we received, the following week, we received, the Public Accounts Committee received a letter from the agency concerned and they said they were being treated as despicable today, their treatment, as it was on day one when they raised this issue. What does that say about the protectors of those who are weakest, the HSE?.”

“Those that discovered this, that were professional enough and brave enough to come forward, did so, the whistleblowers. Unfortunately, the system within the HSE served them very badly and the whistleblower legislation, it would appear, is not worth the paper it’s written on. Because the whistlebowers fear for their professional futures.”

“We want to hear [from HSE director general Tony O’Brien] the full truth, we want to hear him tell us exactly what he knows from beginning to end, as much as he can – because we know there’s a Garda investigation going on. What we don’t want is for them to hide behind that investigation…”

HSE director general Tony O’Brien will appear before the Public Accounts Committee at noon today.

Related: Foster care scandal: The drip-drip of misinformation and mistruth (Irish Examiner)

Previously: No Saving Grace

‘What Was In The Records?’

Mark Stedman/Rollingnews

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 Solicitor Catherine Ghent

Some 47 children, many who had physical and mental disabilities, were placed in foster care with an abusive family in the southeast of Ireland, between 1983 and 1995.

One woman who couldn’t speak and had intellectual disabilities was left behind after others were removed – after concerns were raised – and remained there until 2009.

The unidentified woman – referred to as Grace – suffered serious sexual abuse until her eventual removal.

In 1992, the then South Eastern Health Board became aware of concerns surrounding the family.

Further to this, RTÉ journalist Keelin Shanley spoke to solicitor Catherine Ghent on the Today with Seán O’Rourke show this morning.

Ms Ghent specialises in child protection.

Catherine Ghent: “I have to say I’m absolutely horrified, I’m horrified in relation to, and I agree with Fergus [Finlay], I’m going to call her ‘Grace’ as well. I think we need to realise these are people but there’s 47 other children and young adults as well. That is a huge amount of people to have gone through this family over what must have been a very substantial period of time for no-one, no-one to have noticed there are very clear failures. To me, the two things which really stand out are who was speaking up for these children? If they had and advocate or a representative you would expect that this would have come to light. And what I suspect is they didn’t have anyone. And, secondly, there seems to have been no oversight. So the State authorities going in, how could the placement of 47 children be sanctioned for years with no-one watching what was going on? Or no-one stopping it? And, however it came to light, and the people brave enough to go in and say ‘this has to stop’, they have to be given credit for that but it’s really remarkable as to how that was allowed to go on for so long and with so many people. And I would say a lot of lives ruined.”

Keelin Shanley: “And Catherine, from what we know, between 1983 and 1995 these 47 children were placed in the home at various times. In 1995, it came to the attention of the authorities that there was a problem with the home. Do you understand how this one particular woman, Grace, as you were calling her here, how she could have been left behind?”

Ghent: “I am absolutely flabbergasted. The only reason she must have been left behind is there must have been either a horrendous failure to pass on information, which would indicate that perhaps she didn’t have a social worker allocated at the time, I don’t know. If she did, what access were, did she have records? What was in the records? Was there adequate information sharing in relation to the social workers for the other children? If that didn’t happen, why did it not happen? Were the guards involved? There should have been a strategy meeting commissioned by the gardaí, by the social work department and, within that strategy meeting, if information previously was not passed, it should have been shared at that meeting. So everyone should have known. But I think the most important, it goes back to why we felt it was so important to change the constitution, these children need a voice. And if you are  in the care of the State, what is most striking about this is, I suspect, a lot of these people were placed on voluntary arrangements and there was no court oversight. We now have a system…”

Shanley: “Explain that Catherine – if you’re placed on a voluntary basis you don’t have to have other people involved or looking into your case?”

Ghent: “No and I think that this really has to be looked at. If a parent feels overwhelmed or under pressure and they say, ‘we just cannot care for our children’ they can sign their child into the care of the State. And if they do that, the matter does not go to court. And I think that’s unacceptable. Because then what you have is no independent monitoring. You have social workers who are there, in the grind, who perhaps have to go to court in other cases and the reality is if you have to answer and go to a different body and you have to make the case as to why the child should be in care – you get the information, you visit the child, you understand the harm that would occur if the child was not in the placement and you bring that to the court. If they’re in voluntary care, and I’ve seen children in voluntary care for up to 15 and 16 years...”

Shanley: “Without investigation..”

Ghent:No oversight.”

Shanley: “Obviously, we don’t know the details of this case, we don’t know if this particular woman was in voluntary care or not but is this still happening? That people are being placed in  voluntary care with no oversight?

Ghent:Yes, yes.”

Shanley: “At all?”

Ghent: “Yes. It absolutely is. My view is that no child should be in voluntary care for no more than six, at a maximum, eight weeks because it’s such a serious interference with the child’s rights. It’s a statement that there’s clearly something wrong in relation to care and that is not to blame parents, that’s to say this child has needs which primarily seem to be protection needs. But voluntary care is alive and well at this stage, and sometimes there’s a benign view taken that it’s better to cooperate with parents and if you go into the court arena, it can all get adversarial so therefore this is a means of avoiding that. And that’s a well-intentioned motive  but the practical effect of that is without oversight no-one is checking it and, without oversight, the practical reality is that those cases, in my experience, slip as priorities and that’s when you get children left in situations where they shouldn’t be.”

Shanley: “It would seem from what Fergus Finlay was saying earlier, on Morning Ireland, that when the bulk of the children being cared for in this home were removed, that concerns had been raised, that some kind of appeal went through whereby Grace was allowed to stay with this family. Does that tally with the notion of voluntary care? That if it’s voluntary, you wouldn’t be subject to the same oversight as the other cases?”

Ghent:It is, I mean, if they were subject to a care order, the child should have a voice, so the child should have a guardian ad liteum and the guardian ad liteum would be able to analyse and do an independent, not a full assessment of the foster care system, but analyse the assessments done by the social work department. The child, or young person, would have a voice within that appeals process and that’s what’s absolutely striking. These children have no voice…”

Later

Ghent: And I’d really like people to actually say to politicians on the doorstep what are you going to do to protect our children so that our Grace doesn’t happen again?… If it’s the case that the State is avoiding the word ‘apology’ for the purposes of a defence perhaps in civil litigation then that really needs to be looked at because we cannot be any defence to a child or young person left in the circumstances that this girl was. There just cannot be.”

Ms Shanley reported that no representative from the HSE was available to speak on the show. She also reported that the show invited Health Minister Leo Varadkar, Children’s Minister Dr James Reilly and Junior Health Minister Kathleen Lynch to speak but all of them were unavailable.

Listen back in full here

Listen to Fergus Finlay’s interview on Morning Ireland here

HSE writes formal apology to foster care abuse victim (Fiachra Ó Cionnaith, Irish Examiner, January 27, 2016)