Tusla responds to investigation into rape of three children in state care

Tusla has said it takes immediate action to protect children when an allegation of abuse in foster care is made.

Tusla responds to investigation into rape of three children in state care

Tusla has said it takes immediate action to protect children when an allegation of abuse in foster care is made.

It was responding to the National Review Panel's (NRP) investigation of a case where three children were repeatedly raped by a teenager while in state care.

As well as "flawed assessment and decision-making" there was a lack of management oversight at “critical points” by the HSE and later Tusla, the child and family agency, the NRP states.

Tusla, which referred the case to the NRP, said it was clear that some of the decisions made at the time were not “robust enough” to keep the children safe and "it is deeply regrettable" that they were abused in a place where they should have been safe from harm.

The abuse occurred at a foster home in Dunmore, Co Galway, where there were two foster children in long-term care and two others who spent respite weekends there.

Keith Burke (29) of Addergoolemore, Dunmore, Co Galway, was jailed for seven and a half years at the Central Criminal Court last year for the rape of the three girls between 2003 and 2011.

He was one of three sons of the foster carers, Kathleen and Gerry Burke, and was aged between 14 and 18 at the time while the girls were all under the age of 10.

In 2007 one of the children disclosed that she had been sexually abused by Keith Burke and her account was considered credible. A file was sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions but no prosecution followed.

The child was in respite care in the foster home and this arrangement ceased for both her and the other child in respite immediately after her disclosure.

The foster mother, who adamantly denied that what was alleged could have occurred, was requested to ask her son to leave the family home and complied.

The child who made the disclosure claimed one of the two long term foster children in the home had been assaulted by Keith Burke but the other child denied anything had happened when interviewed.

Social workers decided to leave the two children who remained in long term foster care with the family pending the decision of the DPP.

Four years after the first child made her disclosure one of the remaining foster children, then a teenager and still living in the foster home, disclosed that she had also been abused by the foster carers' son over many years.

When giving statements to the gardaí, she named a child who had been in the foster home some years earlier and said that she had also been abused. The gardaí followed this up and the named child, now a young person, confirmed that this was the case.

The other young person in the foster home continued to state firmly that nothing untoward had happened. However, the report states that there was enough evidence to indicate that the two remaining foster children should have been moved from the foster home.

Meanwhile, an inspection report published by the Health Information and Quality Authority on foster care services in Sligo, Leitrim and West Cavan – Tusla's west region, found serious shortcomings in safeguarding and child protection.

During the two years prior to the announced inspection last January, seven children were not visited within the time-frames set out in the regulations. Also, allegations were not always screened in line with Children First, National Guidelines for the Protection and Welfare of Children.

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