Therapeutic fostering service ended

The country’s only intensive therapeutic fostering service for extremely troubled children has been dropped, with the provider “devastated” by the decision.

The multi-development treatment foster care service was operated by the Daughters of Charity Child and Family Service and was originally recommended by the HSE specialist with responsibility for alternative care, Aidan Waterstone.

A model derived from the US juvenile justice system, 15 Irish children entered it although it was limited to one HSE area. It began operating in 2009.

Correspondence released to the Irish Examiner by the Child and Family Agency (CFA) under freedom of information includes a letter from Liam O’Dalaigh, director of services in the Daughters of Charity, in which he spells out his frustration at how the service was coming to an end.

In a letter written to HSE Dublin North East in March last year, Mr O’Dalaigh wrote: “A pattern of no referrals is emerging and HSE North Dublin has not made referrals to Timewise since November 2012. No new referrals have been made at the local steering group meetings in January or March 2013.

“A consistent message conveyed to us since last year from the HSE acting principal social worker for children in fostering and in care is that he is fundamentally opposed to the multi-development treatment foster care service model and more favourable to attachment-based foster care placements.”

Later he wrote that while he appreciated there were differing views on the service, the 24/7 on call, supported, wrap-around service had been delivering “the fundamentals of attachment” for children “when their lives are in a constant state of turmoil“.

In the letter, he said “it cannot be denied that 15 children have been served well on this model and, while it is accepted that not all of them completed the programme for various reasons, all of them received a good service and the majority had good outcomes.” He also wrote that “relationships became tense and very strained” with some professionals in the HSE over the future of the service.

At least nine children completed the programme, another two placements closed due to “disruptions”, two children asked to leave, and another was referred for medical treatment.

Mr O’Dalaigh also wrote that it was “perplexing” that, if there were no referrals from North Dublin or if the programme was not wanted, “why the referral base is not widened, especially when one considers that 16 HSE enquiries were received from outside the area last year”.

“Of course, we had problems with false starts and our share of failures. We have also had problems with the HSE in not having the step down placements as agreed at the onset of the placement and this delayed the movement of children off the programme who were ready to move, thus impacting on avail-ability of placements and throughput.”

In a letter of response CFA chief executive Gordon Jeyes said: “I regret that services as currently delivered do not represent the most effective means of providing for requirement” and that mainstream fostering services were best provided within Agency services.

Both he and Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald said any programme paid for by the CFA needed to be outcome-based.

The Timewise programme involved intensive training of foster carers and cost about €750,000 in start-up costs with an annual budget of €550,000.

* Supported by the Mary Raftery Journalism Fund

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