The ISPCC has expressed concern at the grave findings of the National Review Panel report into the handling of a case involving the sexual abuse of young children at a foster home in County Galway.
The report outlines multiple shortcomings in the actions of state agencies tasked with safeguarding the welfare of children in the foster care system, including systemic flaws in management practices, deficiencies in assessment and review processes, an inadequate response in the aftermath of disclosures of abuse and a lack of appropriate actions taken to adequately protect victims
ISPCC CEO John Church said: “The report of the National Review Panel into this case highlights serious errors of judgement which occurred in the handling of this case involving abuse which took place repeatedly over a four-year period (between 2003 and 2007).
“It is of particular concern that the remaining children in the family’s care were not removed, despite sufficient evidence to warrant their removal from the placement. No attempt was made to assess the threat posed to other children in the community following the disclosures, nor was any contact made with the families of children who had previously been placed with this foster family in order to identify whether there any further incidences of abuse had occurred.
“It is difficult for children to disclose abuse and the findings of this report demonstrate how important it is that when abuse happens children are listened to, taken seriously and their claims acted on swiftly. As seen in this case, the perpetrators of sexual abuse are often known to their victims. Those who are specifically charged with the care of vulnerable children must ensure that every possible action is taken to protect them from harm.
“It is to be welcomed that a number of significant reforms have been introduced to the child protection and welfare system in place in Ireland since the time period in which the events under review in this report took place. These include the Children First Act, the establishment of Tusla and the development of national standards and inspections by the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA). Developments including the enhancement of collaborative working between Tusla and An Garda Síochána and the piloting of the ‘One House Model’ are welcome and we will be monitoring their progress. It is essential that robust systems are in place to safeguard children’s welfare and these must be regularly audited to assess their effectiveness. Learnings from every case should be taken into account.
“Additionally, the ISPCC welcomes the report’s highlighting of the necessity for urgent intervention where adolescents have been the perpetrators of sexual abuse in order to prevent the patterns of offending becoming ingrained in that young person.
“Ireland has a bleak history of not listening to children and not acting in their best interests. Children have a right to be safe and a right to be heard. It is in everyone’s interests that Tusla, the state agency tasked with safeguarding children’s welfare, succeeds. Working in frontline child protection and welfare services is challenging and adequate supports need to be available to help ensure individuals are equipped to perform their jobs effectively.
“Foster care is the backbone of the care system in Ireland. Foster families play a hugely important role in supporting vulnerable children. It is essential that children in foster care and their families, as well as the public, can be assured that they can trust the system. It is also essential that foster families and those considering becoming foster carers can have confidence in the system, its supports and its protections for those in care and for foster carers.”