The head of the Chid and Family Agency, Tusla, has defended returning children home after they have been removed by gardaí for their own protection.
Chief executive of Tusla, Fred McBride, was commenting on an audit, by Prof Geoffrey Shannon, of children removed from their homes under section 12 of the Child Care Act, 1991.
The report details 91 cases where gardaí used section 12 to remove a child, believing there was an immediate and serious risk to his/her health or welfare.
Mr McBride said returning a child or young person home, once the crisis was managed, was an extremely positive outcome.
“Tusla manage these crises and, where it is safe to do so, we return the young person home with a robust care plan and supports in place, if required, and, in most cases, this is also the wish of the young person,” he said.
At last week’s Oireachtas joint committee on children and youth affairs, Mr McBride said Tusla conducted an audit of Section 12 cases in one county between January and May this year.
“We can report that there were 14 occasions where An Garda Síochána invoked Section 12.
“Four children were placed in the care of Tusla, including a newborn baby, and the remaining 10 families continue to have ongoing social work support within their homes and communities.
“One of these cases is due for closure shortly,” he said.
Mr McBride said no member of Tusla was interviewed about the 91 cases reviewed in Dr Shannon’s report.
“Tusla has requested An Garda Síochana to provide identifying details in respect of the cases referred to in Dr Shannon’s report, in order that we can review each to ensure it adhered to the highest standards of practice.”
Mr McBride said that he had also written to Dr Shannon, emphasising that they accepted the report and that they were not trying to undermine it.
Fianna Fail’s spokesperson on children and youth affairs, Anne Rabbitte, said 5,200 children needed a social worker and 20% were “priority” cases.
Mr McBride assured the deputy that they responded immediately to any child in imminent danger and that a duty intake team was working on 2,000 of the cases.
However, he was concerned that the number of unallocated cases was increasing again, after two and a half years of a constant reduction.
“We are trying to get underneath the bonnet of why that is,” said Mr McBride.
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