An investigation by HIQA has found that a large number of children are being left at potential risk because of system failures of the child and family agency An Tusla.

HIQA, the health watchdog in this country started investigating the Child and Family Agency after the Children’s Minister, Catherine Zappone, requested an inquiry be set up after whistle-blower Sgt. Maurice McCabe was falsely accused of seriously abusing a child.

The report, which is over 300 pages in length, has shown that Tusla is unable to fulfil its role to the required standard that children of this country deserve.

The investigation into the child protection agency has found 65 cases where it was shown that Tusla failed to protect children who are at “potential risk” of abuse.

HIQA investigators also found that in 10 cases, they were forced to direct Tusla to reopen files because of concerns about at-risk children. Investigators found three children, who were already considered to be at a significant risk and watched by Tusla, were not being adequately monitored.

Other main findings from the report include:

  • Tusla closed 164 suspected child sex cases despite not knowing if that particular matter had been resolved or not.
  • “Defective points”, such as preliminary investigations of abuse complaints, safety plans for vulnerable children and referral problems are leading to child protection concerns”, and fears some abusers are being “missed”.

The report also found that Tusla is suffering from serious staffing problems which has and continues to severely hamper its ability to deal with allegations whether they are historical or ongoing.

As a result of those deficiencies, the agency is unable to properly react when some cases of suspected child abuse are referred to the agency.

A further investigation of foster families has found some children are living in homes where not all young adults in the house are Garda vetted. The law states that once a person is 16 and living in the same house as a fostered child they must be checked out by Gardai for safety reasons.

This revelation is quite alarming especially after the recent Primetime Investigates programme entitled ‘Fostered and Failed’ into the sexual abuse of three children which occurred in a foster care home in Dunmore Co. Galway from 2000-2007.

Ronan Hynes, Solicitor and Partner in Keating Connolly Sellors acted for ‘Sarah’ who was featured in the Primetime Investigates programme, commented that: “This report is another damning indictment of TUSLA. We need a root and branch review of the organisation and a cold, hard assessment of whether it is truly fit for purpose in 21st century Ireland. As child experts have commented recently, this is simply not an area we can tolerate or accept mediocre standards. The Government must also do much more to ensure that TUSLA fulfils adequately its core statutory function of protecting and safeguarding the interests of children in Ireland.“

Should you require any further information, please contact Ronan Hynes, Partner in the Litigation and Dispute Resolution Department at 061 432 348 or by email at rhynes@sellors.ie.

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