Case Three: 16-year-old male who died in 2003


A BOY who was put into care just before his fourth birthday due to allegations of abuse by an older relative was later returned to live with this relative, who abused alcohol and who often left the child on his own.

During his 11 years in care, he had eight different placements, despite having lived with one foster family for eight years.

One of the placements was in a place of detention for males aged 16 to 21, where he spent a week. The child had seven different social workers in his time in care.

The report noted that evidence of sexualised behaviour displayed by the child when he was admitted to care did not appear to have been fully assessed.

Although he was in a stable foster arrangement for eight years, this placement broke down when the child became a teenager. Thereafter his life was very unsettled and he had multiple placements including a stay in a boarding school and multiple stays in supported lodgings and bed and breakfast accommodation as the HSE was unable to find a suitable residential placement for him.

By the time he was 15, he had come to the attention of gardaí due to involvement in shop-lifting, excessive drinking and his failure to attend school. After he was involved in a road traffic incident, a residential placement was found for him but was, the report notes “unfortunately . . . very close to the area where he had been drinking and abusing drugs and close to the peer group with which he was pursuing these activities”.

Although while he was in residential care a plan was developed for the young person and a full assessment of his needs and a review were carried out, he became increasingly volatile.

In the last year of his life he appeared in the children’s court on charges of breach of the peace, being a danger to himself and others, theft, substance abuse and criminal damage.

In the last two months of his life, despite evidence that the young person was still drinking and using drugs, a plan to move him to independent living continued.

The meeting where this plan was confirmed did not appear to discuss his drug use or long periods of absence from the residential care placement.

An internal review of this case was held by the HSE on all aspects of the young person’s care in 2004, during which time key people in his life, social work staff and placement staff were interviewed.

It concluded that the decision to manage this young person through the criminal justice system diluted a child welfare perspective.

It also found that, in the seven months before his death, no case conference or strategy meeting was held on this young person, and child protection concerns were not reported.