'Grace' case: Taoiseach and HSE issue apologies to woman abused at a foster home

Update 4.15pm: The Taoiseach Enda Kenny has apologised to a disabled woman who was left in an abusive foster home for 20 years.

A Commission of Investigation is to be established in the coming weeks.

Mr Kenny addressed the issue in the Dáil, saying: “The very least this House can do is apologise to Grace and her family.

“Her treatment was a disgrace to us as a country.

“The Government is committed to the establishment of the Commission of Investigation – Minister (Finan) McGrath will bring those terms of reference to Cabinet next Tuesday.”

Earlier: The HSE has reiterated its apology to a woman with serious intellectual disabilities, who was abused at a foster home for 20 years.

The apology comes as the HSE releases two reports, the Inquiry into Protected Disclosures, SU1 report by Conal Devine & Associates and the Disability Foster Care Report, HSE South East (Resilience Ireland) reports, relating to the so-called 'Grace' case at a foster home in the South East.

The woman was left in the care of the foster home in 1989 and left there until 2009, despite several concerns about abusive conditions.

The HSE's head of disability services, Dr Cathal Morgan, says the agency missed several chances to remove Grace from the home.

"In 2004 there was potential to move to residential care - this was not followed through," he said.

"In 2008, the birth mother of the service user in question did provide consent for a move to residential care, which was not followed through.

"In March 2009, following a review with the Sexual Assault Treatment Unit, most regrettably, the service user was brought back to the original foster home."

Grace was admitted to the home in the south-east of the country when she was 11 years old.

She had serious intellectual difficulties - but evidence quickly emerged of serious abuse in the home.

Those abuse claims are the subject of the two reports.

They outline not only serious shortcomings in supervising Grace’s foster care, but also how Grace was left in the home despite repeated decisions to move her.

The Cabinet are set to agree the terms for a State inquiry next week.

Tusla - the Child and Family Agency - welcomed today’s publication of the reports.

"Grace’s placement predates the introduction of the ‘Child Care (Placement of Children in Foster Care) Regulations 1995’, and her experience does not reflect current foster care placements which are highly regulated both externally by HIQA and internally by Tusla’s monitoring service," a Tusla statement read.

"94% of all children currently in foster care have an allocated social worker and in the small number of cases where a child doesn’t have an allocated social worker they are monitored by a team leader to ensure their safety and wellbeing.

"Where a child is at immediate risk they receive a timely response, and 93% have care plans which means that the child’s needs are assessed and they are placed in the most suitable foster care placement, taking those needs and the best interests of the child into account.

"We can confirm that Tusla staff referred to in these reports were identified to us by the HSE in the last two weeks. We have met with staff concerned to advise them of the publication of the reports and have completed an initial HR review process.

"We are currently examining the reports published today and will further review the individual staff involvement in the case at the time. If any issues emerge as a result of this review, further HR processes will be invoked, as necessary.

"We are actively liaising with an Garda Siochána to ensure that our own internal review processes do not impede their separate, ongoing investigation. Additionally, we will fully cooperate with the forthcoming Commission of Inquiry."

Connect is available to provide free telephone-based counselling to anyone impacted by today’s Foster Care reports.

Connect provides professional telephone based counselling and support to survivors at Freephone 1800 477 477 in the Republic of Ireland and 00800 477 477 77 in Northern Ireland.

Opening hours are Wednesday to Sunday 6-10pm. Further information at www.connectcounselling.ie. Connect is funded by the HSE.

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