Child protection failings: Reasons why children were removed

Away from the harrowing personal stories, the audit shows the reasons why many children are removed from their home - the dangers posed to their health and wellbeing either because of their own behaviour or, more likely, those around them.

Some 595 incidents were reported in 2014, 560 of which were valid, involving 504 children.
Some 595 incidents were reported in 2014, 560 of which were valid, involving 504 children.

Some 595 incidents were reported in 2014, 560 of which were valid, involving 504 children. The audit analysed the cases and built a profile of those who become the subject of a section 12 action.

A large percentage of the children, over 77.4%, are Irish. The largest foreign-national grouping comprised Nigerian children - 24 children or 4.4% of the total involved. Ten children were of Romanian nationality but the audit notes, that in 29 instances, the nationality of the child is not recorded on PULSE.

In ages, they range from babies to 18 years, with the highest percentage relating to children from 16 to 18 years. More than half are aged between 13 and 18 years. Male children were the subject of 54.7% and females were involved in 44.9% of cases, though in two cases gender was “unspecified”.

The data also shows that:

  • 54.6% of children were living with parents or other guardians when section 12 was applied, while 16.7% were living in foster care or other residential care, while in 23.4% of cases the home or living circumstances are not recorded on PULSE.
  • Garda assistance was invoked by parents and other family members in 23% of the incidents and by the children themselves in 7.3% of incidents. Almost 10% of incidents arose as a result of a child being reported missing.
  • Parents were present at the time of exercising the power in 252 incidents (45%).

By far, the main reason for the children being the subject of a section 12 action was a concern for their welfare (public safety), accounting for well over 300 cases in 2014. Other factors included neglect, a suspicion of abuse, domestic violence, parental drug use and, in some cases, the child a danger to his or herself and the public.

Resistance to the invocation of section 12 was encountered in 57 incidents, with no indication of resistance in 151 incidents and the position unknown in 352 incidents.

According to the audit: “the majority of incidents (81%) are silent as to whether AGS had any contact with social workers or other third parties, prior to exercising section 12. It may be presumed that there was no contact of this nature. However, in the absence of any recorded detail in this regard, it is impossible to say with certainty”.

Regarding a garda questionnaire which formed part of the audit, 224 respondents (53% of those who answered) said there was an out-of-hours service available at the time, 146 (35%) said there was no service available.

The audit noted the difficulty in organising placements for children with challenging behaviour and said: “There is also a persistent perception among a number of Garda respondents that Tusla social workers sometimes delay addressing a particular risk to a child, in order to force the involvement of AGS in the case”.

It quoted one garda who participated in a focus group: “We get a lot of, is the… call at five to five from social workers saying they want this place checked on over a weekend, and the first we hear about it is at five minutes to five. And it’s just they’re, about to finish off for the weekend. And they’re like, ‘oh, we’ve major concerns about this... home’.”

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