Increase in violent children entering care system

Ballydowd

A growing number of young people displaying extreme violence and other difficult behaviour are entering the care system, the chief operations officer of the Child and Family Agency has claimed.

Fred McBride also said Tusla was in discussions with the HSE about putting together a proposal for a youth mental health facility that could reduce the number of Irish children in care sent to overseas facilities for treatment.

Mr McBride made his comments following a damning report by the Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) into the country’s largest special care unit, Ballydowd.

Mr McBride apologised for the shortcomings highlighted by Hiqa but said there were indications children were presenting with more challenging behaviour than in previous years.

“We are seeing this as a potential trend,” he said. “It bears some further analysis.

“From the number of incidents we are receiving there would appear to be more difficult behaviour that staff are having to deal with over the last couple of years.”

He admitted that “trying to explain that is difficult”, adding that there could be multiple factors, involved.

“My view is that we should be having a separate piece of research regarding levels of violence, not just in residential facilities, but in youth cultures across the country.”

Meanwhile, the rate at which social workers resort to the courts to make childcare applications varies widely around the country and may be linked to the availability of support services for families, according to the director of the Child Care Law Reporting Project.

Carol Coulter said she could only speculate as to the reasons for the variation and further research was needed to identify the true causes.

However, she speculated that it may reflect greater access to family supports in certain areas or it that may be linked to different policies in different Tusla regions, or the greater use of voluntary orders in some parts of the country. Voluntary orders are reached with the agreement of parents without resort to the courts.

Dr Coulter was commenting against the backdrop of the publication of the Courts Service Child Care Statistics for 2014 which shows almost 10,000 child care applications were dealt with in the District Court last year.

The report found Cork accounts for over half of all care order reviews — 475 out of 806. Dr Coulter said she thought this was “actually a good thing”.

“It indicates that there is very substantial oversight of how children in care are getting on in Cork and that is to be welcomed,” she said.


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