Tusla paid €1.8m last year for out-of-state placements, down from €2.8m in 2016, according to freedom of information figures. In each year, 17 Irish children were facilitated.
Out-of-state placements, which can only be made by order of the High Court, have been criticised by child law experts, including by the special rapporteur on child protection, Geoffrey Shannon.
St Andrew’s Healthcare, which offers secure mental health services, received most money, being paid €1.9m by Tusla over 2016 and 2017. Seven other facilities were also used, with Cambian Childcare Ltd paid the next highest amount, or €1.7m over the two years.
Tusla has said it wishes to provide specialist services in Ireland, so as to limit the number of out-of-state placements, but it’s understood the fall in expenditure last year is down to natural fluctuations, in terms of the number of children placed with different facilities.
Families of some children placed overseas have outlined the difficulties of maintaining regular contact and have voiced concerns over the children’s later reintegration into Irish society.
Tusla said: “There are a small number of children who require specialised care, as a result of their life experiences. On rare occasions, the level of specialised intervention required is not available in Ireland. In such cases, a child or young person may be placed in out-of-state care, at a facility abroad which offers a broader range of treatment options, support and/or interventions than those provided in Irish facilities. In such cases, priority is always given to the care a child or young person needs, rather than to jurisdictional boundaries.”
Just over a year ago, Tusla said it had been in contact with management at St Andrew’s, after a Channel 4 documentary, Under Lock and Key, raised serious concerns about the centre.
St Andrew’s defended its standard of care.
A Tusla spokesperson said yesterday: “Whilst St Andrew’s is highly regulated, these children remain in the care of Tusla and to ensure that they are as safe as possible, we receive regular, detailed reports on the child, they have regular visits from their allocated social worker, an up-to-date written care plan, access to their families /carers, where this is in their best interests, and aftercare planning with an allocated aftercare worker”.