Terms of inquiry due for ‘Grace’ foster case

Terms for a full inquiry into the circumstances of how a young intellectually disabled girl remained in a foster home at the centre of abuse allegations are near being finalised.

The Cabinet is expected to get an update from the Attorney General today about the commission of investigation which was ordered by the previous government into events surrounding the care of ‘Grace’, who was allegedly subjected to abuse after being left in a foster home in the South-East.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny spoke with newly appointed Minister for Children Katherine Zappone yesterday about the inquiry, amid concerns about a separate case in which a young person was left in a foster care home despite allegations of sexual abuse against a carer there.

Ms Zappone said the pending inquiry into the situation surrounding the care of Grace and other children in the South-East was “top” of her agenda.

The minister said she was today expecting an update at Cabinet on the commission of investigation, including details from the Attorney General.

Regarding the inquiry, Ms Zappone said: “My understanding is it is going to go ahead. But we need to have the terms of reference concluded and I was raising that with the Taoiseach’s department this morning.”

Separately, Ms Zappone said she had asked the child and family agency Tusla to examine reports of a separate case where a young person with an intellectual disability was left in a foster home in the Cork/Kerry area. This was despite allegations of sex abuse levelled against a carer there. The teenager was left in the home some 21 months after other children in the facility were removed for their own safety.

Barnardo’s chief executive Fergus Finley has suggested the case should be incorporated into the terms for the commission of investigation due to probe the Grace case.

Meanwhile, Tusla CEO Fred McBride said he and HSE director general Tony O’Brien have agreed they are both willing to review the new case involving a foster home which has emerged. “I spoke to him this morning, we will review that case or cases together.”

Speaking at the AGM of the Children’s Alliance in Dublin, Mr McBride also outlined how he envisaged intervening and helping teenagers in troubled areas in cities.

The newly appointed Tusla chief outlined how services intervened with children at the average age of 17 in Ireland.

However, he said services and intervention with children in crisis needed to take place at an earlier age, as is happening in Scotland, where he previously worked.

Mr McBride described how the police force there had arranged and set up “midnight football” games for teenagers. This intervention helped address antisocial behaviour and such methods for communities could be tried here, he said

“By 2am they [teeangers] are ready for bed,” he told the alliance event at St Patrick’s Hospital, Dublin.

He said that Tusla had an extra €35m for its budget this year which would go towards hiring an extra 170 social workers and boosting frontline support.


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