At least 33 foster care abuse claims ‘have substance’

At least 33 allegations of abuse by foster carers to children in their care were found to have substance by the Child and Family Agency over a 15-month period.

Figures provided by Tusla show 24 allegations of abuse made against foster carers around the country last year were “found to have substance”, while in the first quarter of this year there were another nine allegations — including three in the Cork area alone.

The figures show while none of the allegations were of a sexual nature, 11 across the 15-month period involved physical abuse.

In seven cases between the beginning of last year and the end of last March, the allegations involved neglect, including four cases in the first quarter of this year. Other cases involved welfare concerns, in six instances, and another six cases of emotional abuse.

Tusla was unable to state what course of action had followed in each case regarding whether or not the foster carers in question had children removed from their care, or whether any faced garda investigation.

The figures are likely to cause further disquiet following the high-profile ‘Grace’ case, in which it emerged a woman with intellectual disabilities remained for 13 years in a foster home where it is alleged she was subjected to torture, sexual abuse, and physical neglect.

In another recent high- profile case, in which a father was sentenced to 14 years in prison for the rape and abuse of his son, the court heard that when the boy was removed from his parents’ care, he was subsequently abused again while in foster care.

The region with the single highest number of substantiated allegations of abuse by foster carers across the 15-month period was in the Mid-West, where nine allegations were made last year.

No figure is provided for the first quarter of this year for that area, during which time three allegations were substantiated in Cork — two involving physical abuse and one of emotional abuse — and another three were made in Waterford/Wexford, with all three involving allegations of neglect.

Last year also saw three substantiated allegations in Mayo, three in Dublin North, and three in Louth/Meath.

Some areas had no substantiated allegations across the 15-month timeframe, including Dublin South East/Wicklow, Dublin South West/Kildare/West Wicklow, Dublin City North, and Sligo/Leitrim/West Cavan.

Figures from Tusla also show the level of non-pay expenditure in the foster sector increased between 2014 and 2015.

In 2015 statutory foster care allowances topped €100m, along with more than €16m in after-care allowances and just shy of €3m in other care allowances, bringing the total to almost €120m.

Under independent placement provision €66m was spent on residential provision, up almost €6m, with €18m spent on foster care provision and €4.5m on unaccompanied minors — the one figure that decreased between 2014 and 2015.

The Irish Foster Carers Association stressed that around 95% of the more than 6,000 children in care are in foster care and are happy in their placements.

However, Irish Foster Carers Association chief executive Catherine Bond said not every foster carer had a linked social worker, in the same way that not every child in care had an allocated social worker.

“If the system was perfect then the checks and balances would be there,” Ms Bond said.

Ms Bond said the safety of children was paramount but said carers also needed training and support so they could keep themselves safe and she did not believe that data was being collated regarding instances in which foster carers might receive injuries.

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