Tusla chief executive Fred McBride made his comments yesterday in the wake of the latest abuse allegations involving foster children in the west of Ireland, which were uncovered by RTÉ’s Investigations Unit.
Mr McBride said children would only be removed from the foster home “as a last resort”, claiming that removing them from the home would significantly add to their trauma.
He said the policy is to remove the abuse and, if possible, the abuser from the situation.
“We have to be careful because simply removing young people or children from a situation where there may be abuse can cause its own difficulties,” Mr McBride told RTÉ radio.
“Young people are often very traumatised after being removed from their foster case. We must focus much more on removing the abuse and where possible the abuser.
“If removed, the child will often see it as a punishment and it can add significantly to their suffering. We must be very careful not to make the situation worse.
“Let’s make no mistake, separation and loss causes huge trauma for children, many of whom have already suffered separation and loss. All foster children are visited on a regular basis and their views are ascertained. They want the abuse to go away but they do not want to be removed,” said Mr McBride.
Asked about the foster home in question, Mr McBride said there are no foster children there at present and it is not being used in any way by Tusla.
Mr McBride said the boy in question, ‘Daniel’, is still in contact with the home and visits it regularly.
He said if there is clear evidence that no risk is posed to the children, then removing them from the home has to be a last resort.
Great care has to be taken before such a decision is made, he said.
“By listening to children, we know they do not want to be separated from their families, or their foster families, even where abuse occurs,” he said.
Mr McBride refused to be drawn into the specific detail of the latest case, but insisted that his approach to leaving children in a home where allegations exist is in line with child protection law.
Mr McBride said individual cases are assessed and dealt with on a proportionate basis.
In relation to Daniel’s case, Mr McBride said the boy is now receiving an aftercare service which is monitored regularly. “We monitor all children in foster care on a regular basis and this case would have been no different. There are visits from social workers who contact the children. The monitoring would be proportionate to the level of risk,” he said.
“There are a number of risks in foster care, as there are in any family.”
Asked how children could be left in the home when the HSE considered a 2007 allegation as credible, Mr McBride said: “We have an absolute duty to see children get individualised care plans, risk assessments where appropriate.”
“Two different children in the same home could have different needs. Children in foster care are subject to regularly statutory reviews and assessments,” he added.