Ombudsman Niall Muldoon today published the findings of an investigation into a complaint made on behalf of a teenager who has Down syndrome and severe autism, and who was abandoned at birth.
The girl’s foster carer complained to the Ombudsman for Children’s Office about the level of support and services being provided by Tusla and the HSE.
The report found that Molly (not her real name) is dependent on her foster carers in all areas of her care, including feeding, toileting, bathing, and dressing.
“Although Molly brings joy and positivity to their home, her foster carer was struggling financially and emotionally to deal with her needs,” Dr Muldoon said.
“We investigated Molly’s case and found that there was a lack of co-ordination between the Tusla and the HSE which meant that services and supports provided were insufficient.
“We also found that this is a problem facing many children with disabilities in care. In 2015 there were 472 children with a diagnosed moderate to severe disability in foster care, representing approximately 8% of the foster care population in Ireland.
“This is an important investigation highlighting the struggles of some of our most vulnerable children, many of whom cannot speak out for themselves.
“Foster carers and social workers all over the country are working tirelessly to support young people with disabilities who are in care, but we cannot be dependent on individual efforts, the system must support young people to reach their full potential.”
Both Tusla and the HSE gave commitments to act on recommendations issued in today’s report.
“Foster carers are the backbone of our child protection system, they open their homes to children who can’t live with their own families, and provide an environment where the child can flourish,” said Jim Gibson, Tusla chief operations officer.
Tusla said it would carry out a review of the current supports being offered to Molly to ensure she reaches her potential in conjunction with the HSE, work with the HSE to put in place any necessary supports related to any transition from her current home, and conduct a review of supports being offered to all children with a moderate or severe disability in foster care.