State agency apologises for lapses in support for vulnerable teen

Child and Family Agency publishes reports into deaths of four children

Wed, Jul 16, 2014, 14:32

Over the following months, John’s consultant and the medical social worker attached to his team met regularly with his parents to convince them of the importance of treatment. His case was referred to child protection services, which applied to the High Court for an order to resume treatment. Before it could resume, one of the parents removed him from the jurisdiction. His parent later brought him back and he died in a children’s hospital.

The review team found that neither the HSE nor the hospital staff could have done anything more in their power to prolong John’s life. It said social workers acted promptly and the childcare manager, in particular, made every effort to secure the best outcome for him.

Difficulties in the case were heightened as a result of a dispute between John’s parents and his medical team. Social workers worked hard to develop a respectful working relationship. “This is commendable, particularly given the legalistic turn taken in the case,” the report states.

Susan was 18 months old when she died after what was described as a tragic accident at home. She was taken into care after her mother apparently left her with a childminder and never returned. The child was considered to be at risk of harm due to neglect and was placed with foster carers under an emergency care order.

Social workers worked with her mother and husband over three months to assess their parenting capacity. Susan was returned to the parents on the basis that they were capable of caring for her and were willing to engage with support services. A family support worker was allocated to them, but a social worker was never assigned on the basis that it was a low priority.

The child was observed to be making good progress, although the mother disengaged from services and a community nursery organised for her daughter. No concerns were noted about Susan’s safety and welfare at the time and she died a few weeks later.

The report found that social services responded immediately and appropriately at the outset, although the relationship between mother and daughter required more in-depth assessment.

Social work practice was “well supported”, although the fact that the case remained on a waiting list should be seen in the context of a system overwhelmed by the volume of referrals.