Grace files: Child with disabilities was locked in cupboard

A joint investigation by gardaí and British police was launched into claims at least one other vulnerable child was seriously abused while placed at the same foster home as Grace, in addition to a small number of other “potentially serious” cases.

Between 1983 and 2013 more than 40 other children and teenagers were placed at the same home Grace was placed at.

The fresh allegation is detailed in a second HSE-commissioned report which has also found a child with disabilities was locked in a cupboard during their stay and that no official was keeping a clear check on how many public or private placements were at the home at any one time.

Like the Conal Devine report, the Resilience Ireland report is due to be published today after legal reasons, now removed, blocked its release for a number of years.

The 91-page report was commissioned in March 2014 in response to the 2012 Conal Devine document and was tasked with examining the experiences of other vulnerable children and teens placed at the Waterford foster home.

And while its findings are not as grave or detailed as the Devine report, it has found a series of separate concerns that raise further issues over what was taking place in the home from 1983 until 2013.

According to the Resilience Ireland report — which, like Devine, was not asked to address any questions over whether the Grace scandal was repeatedly covered up by health and social care officials — the foster family at the centre of the case began accepting private placements in 1983.

In 1985, with the assistance of both the Brothers of Charity Service and the local health board, the family were formally registered as foster carers on condition they limited placements to two a year, meaning state placements also began.

However, despite this legal limitation, the family soon disregarded the rule, taking in “at least” 12 children — some of whom were returned to the home — in 1984, 14 in 1985, 19 in 1986, 20 in 1987, 14 in 1988, 19 in 1989, and 16 in 1990 alone.

After speaking to the vast majority of the families of the 46 other children and teens placed at the home between 1983 and 2013 in addition to Grace, the Resilience Ireland report found more than half of families who wished to speak to the report team did not believe their child had suffered any abuse.

However, it noted a small number of “potentially serious” cases which had been referred to gardaí, including one case dating from the mid-1990s which was the subject of a joint Garda and UK police investigation.

Following three separate placements in the mid-1990s, “a disclosure of abuse” was reported by the family of a person with severe intellectual disabilities. While the outcome of this claim was not included in the report, it said as the family was now living in Britain, a joint Garda and UK police investigation had been launched.

The finding is included among a small number of other “potentially serious” cases which involve claims a vulnerable child was “locked in a cupboard” during a “short placement with the foster family in the 1980s”.

Two other cases were also noted, but were not detailed in depth as the families involved only wished to speak to the gardaí and declined to participate in the report.

The report also said “nobody was keeping a check on how many children were staying” at the home at any one time, and that it could not be certain there were just nine private placements at the facility.

It also raised concerns over whether the family “were ever approved to be full-time carers” and that “we don’t think the health service carried out the necessary checks”.

The report also said Grace’s birth mother may never have been asked to allow her child to be placed in the home.

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