Failings of care found in deaths of children

Failures to respond swiftly and appropriately to children and families in crisis have been highlighted in a series of Tusla reviews into the deaths of children and young people known to child protection services.

Eight children and young people, the youngest just two weeks old, feature in the latest reviews which examine four suicides, one overdose, one accident and two deaths from natural causes. Those who died are given pseudonyms. They were:

  • Clare, 15, had no allocated social worker from age 9-11 and became increasingly troubled from age 12 when a relative, who had helped foster her since she was two, died. She had four different placements between then and her death.

The review asked why Clare and her sibling were put in separate foster care homes despite their relatives offering to care for both.

“There is no evidence that the issue was prioritised for serious consideration and it is not clear that the significance of separating them was fully understood.”

  • Jake, 2 weeks, was born with a congenital defect to a drug-user mother known to child protection services from her previous pregnancies. The review found social workers had few powers in such cases other than encouraging a mother to mind her health and that of her unborn child. It urged the creation of a Drugs Liaison Midwife Service.
  • Ed, 21, who died by suicide, was placed with foster parents as an infant but his case was not reviewed “from the time he was very young until he was 14 years old”.

The review found: “Ed was left without an adequate service for many years.”

  • Joey, 3 months, who died in a “tragic accident”, was never seen by child protection workers but his family were the subject of numerous referrals relating to alcohol, domestic violence and child welfare concerns. The review said: “The significance of multiple adverse factors was not given the recognition warranted.”
  • Martin, 13, had his death recorded as suicide but his family believed it was an accident. His parents were separated and the review found his father, who raised concerns about drug use and ill-treatment by his mother’s new partner, was not given adequate involvement in his son’s care. His regular absences from school were also not addressed.
  • Jane, 2, died from an incurable medical condition but the review uncovered failings in the handling of welfare concerns about older siblings, in particular a head injury to one child which was not investigated.
  • Zac, 16, had a developmental disorder. Two reports of alleged physical abuse by his father were made but his mother assured a social worker, who was an acquaintance, that there was no problem and the issue was not pursued. Zac’s behaviour was uncontrollable at times and a psychologist, in a letter to social workers, described his family as “in crisis” but no immediate action was taken and he took his own life a week later.
  • Michelle, 21, died of a drug overdose. She was signed into care by her parents at the age of 15 because they could not manage her but her behaviour became more difficult and she had two children while still in her teens. A lack of suitable accommodation for a teenager with her particular needs was highlighted.

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