Fifteen children in State care placed in facilities abroad

 

FIFTEEN CHILDREN in State care have been placed in facilities outside the jurisdiction because there is nowhere suitable for them in Ireland, latest figures show.

Typically, these young people had severe behavioural problems and required specialist intervention. They are in various facilities in Britain, Northern Ireland and the United States.

While there was no breakdown provided for the cost of these placements abroad, previous figures indicate that care abroad costs in the region of €250,000 per child. This equates to about €3.75 million in total.

Children’s rights campaigners have criticised the practice of placing children in care abroad and say specialised services should be available in Ireland.

Health authorities, however, say the number of children placed abroad represents a tiny proportion of more than 6,000 children in care, most of whom are in foster care.

Latest official figures indicate that most of the 15 children were being cared for in Britain, with just a handful being cared for in the US and Northern Ireland.

Facilities being used include Boys Town, in Omaha, Nebraska, a residential centre that provides therapeutic care for at-risk children and their families. Facilities in Britain include Eden Grove School in Cumbria, a specialist residential school, and Coxlease School, a similar facility in Hampshire which provides support for boys who have experienced “inconsistent and confusing care and emotional rejection”.

Other centres used by the Health Service Executive across the water include the Friends Therapeutic Community Trust, a Quaker charity that provides support for young men with “challenging behaviour”, and Alderwasley Hall School, in Derbyshire, which caters for children with communication difficulties, Asperger’s and autism.

Speaking in the Dáil last week, Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald said the referral of young people abroad for specialised care was an established feature of the social care system. “This is done on as infrequent a basis as possible and only where such placement is considered to be in the best interest of the child. These children most commonly have severe behaviour difficulties, in some cases as a result of injury or accident or in others due to their childhood experiences,” she said.

Ms Fitzgerald said the facilities in the UK and elsewhere were able to provide an individually tailored mix of care and therapy. The children’s needs were closely monitored by the HSE and the Office of the Minister for Children.

She said the establishment of the new Child and Family Support Agency – which will, in time, take over responsibility for childcare from the HSE – will provide a further opportunity to review the development and configuration of specialised residential services in Ireland. In each case, she said, the decision to send a child abroad was made in the best interests of the individual.