Mother of ‘Grace’ says she did not learn of abuse claims until 2009
HSE regrets Grace’s mother cannot accept its apology but said it can fully understand why
The Devine report found no one in the HSE did anything about the concerns of day services.
The birth mother of “Grace, ” a young woman with intellectual disabilities left in a foster home for almost 13 years despite a repeated allegations of sexual abuse, said she was never told of her daughter’s abuse until 2009, despite regular inquiries about her daughter’s welfare.
Grace’s mother said she placed the child into care as young, single mother in the late 1970s as she believed it was the right thing to do for the child.
The woman said she made regular inquiries to the then South Eastern Health Board and later the HSE and about Grace’s on-going welfare and was told Grace was doing well.
“My understanding before all the revelations is that she was happy, she was attending her day services and she was just in a loving caring home. That made me happy knowing that she was happy. Because that is what I was made to believe. That is what I was always told”.
Grace’s mother said “at no time” before 2009 was she told about the allegations of sexual abuse although the health board did contact her for permissions relating to dental work, among other issues.
When she heard the abuse allegations she immediately demanded Grace’s removal from the foster home.
The Devine report, published last week after a delay of five years, found no one in the HSE did anything about the concerns of day services, who reported bruising on Grace’s body and evidence of sexualised behaviour.
Grace stayed at the home for 13 years after an allegation of sexual abuse was made in relation to another resident, but no one in the HSE looked into the reasons why she was not moved many years earlier, the report said.
Grace’s mother said she had recently received a letter of apology from the HSE, successor to the Health Board, but did not accept the apology.
She said nobody in the HSE had ever “picked up a phone” and she did not believe the apology came “from the heart”.
“I don’t accept that apology. Nobody form the HSE ever picked up a phone and asked me how was I doing.”
“I don’t trust them. I don’t trust what they have to say. The past nine years have been a living hell for me and that is the only way I can describe it.”
The HSE issued a statement in response on Monday in which it expressed “genuine regret” at her refusal to accept an apology but said it can understand why.
It read: “It is genuinely to our regret but we understand why Grace’s mother cannot accept our apology now. We do hope that in the future she may be in a position to do so.”
“What is most important is that any questions she has which remain to be answered, that she will get those answers from the objective viewpoint of the upcoming Commission of Inquiry.”
Grace’s mother has called on Minister for State Finian McGrath to ensure the proposed commission of inquiry provided answers for all of her questions.
The Cabinet is expected to discuss on Tuesday the terms of reference for a commission of investigation into the foster home where Grace was allegedly abused.
It is expected that this commission will also allow incidents involving other residents to be examined.
The Irish Times understands a memo is to be brought to Cabinet with proposed terms of reference which will see the commission prioritise the case of Grace.
Other cases could be examined later, a source familiar with the proposals said.
It is understood that the Government has approached a judge, who was reviewing the terms of reference over the weekend, to head up the inquiry.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny committed the Government to setting up the commission of investigation last year.
Meanwhile, none of the three-person panel who made the decision to leave “Grace” in the foster home is still working in the health service, the Health Service Executive (HSE) has insisted.
Fianna Fáil TD John McGuinness accused the HSE of providing misleading information about the current status of the three staff who made the decision in October 1996 and were responsible for a number of follow-up actions.
A report published last week showed the decision was not properly followed up and Grace ended up spending 13 more years in the foster home, despite the allegations of physical and sexual abuse.
The HSE said none of the three staff who had made the decision was still on its payroll.
It corrected reports that one member of the three-person panel is currently employed as a senior official in Tusla, saying all three are now retired and in receipt of a HSE pension.
Five of the 30-40 staff mentioned in two reports into the allegations about the foster home are still working with the HSE.
The other staff, who have retired or are working elsewhere, are not therefore subject to HSE disciplinary processes.
Another six staff who figure in the reports are now working for Tusla, and may be subject to that body’s disciplinary processes.
Tusla said staff referred to in the report were identified to the agency by the HSE in the last two weeks.
The HSE also contradicted reports that gardaí were not alerted about the situation until three years after the Devine report into the care of Grace was completed in 2012.
“Throughout the period, from 2011, further live Garda investigations linked to the former foster home and the Grace case continued throughout 2012, 2013, and 2014 which were the subject of ongoing contact, including correspondence and provision of additional information and files, to the Gardaí by HSE staff in the South East,” it said.
HSE statement on March 6th, 2017 in full:
“The HSE heard extracts from the interview with Grace’s mother on radio this morning. It is genuinely to our regret but we understand why Grace’s mother cannot accept our apology now. We do hope that in the future she may be in a position to do so.
What is most important is that any questions she has which remain to be answered, that she will get those answers from the objective viewpoint of the upcoming Commission of Inquiry.
Grace’s mother can be assured that the HSE will co-operate in every way to assist the Commission of Inquiry fulfil its Terms of Reference. The fact she and others have so many unanswered questions is indicative of just how complex this matter is over a twenty year period.
All that we know and can find to date is in the two reports published and in the Conor Dignam report which the Government commissioned as a precursor to the Commission of Inquiry. Once again the HSE can only apologise to Grace and her mother and say that we genuinely are very sorry for all of the failings in her care and in our system.
“Over the weekend certain media suggested that of the 3 person panel referred to by the Director General in the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), one of those persons is now in a senior role in TUSLA.
This is a misinterpretation of the Director General’s comments. He was referring to 3 persons who were fundamentally involved in the decision to leave Grace in the foster home and who were specifically charged with the responsibility for the implementation of the necessary steps required to be taken to create a environment within which she could remain in the foster home, including making her a Ward of Court. These 3 individuals are retired from the HSE and are in receipt of a pension.
“Certain media have also asserted that the HSE did not engage with the Gardaí in relation to the Devine report until 3 years after its publication. This assertion is incorrect.
Throughout the period, from 2011, further live Garda investigations linked to the former foster home and the Grace case continued throughout 2012, 2013, and 2014 which were the subject of ongoing contact, including correspondence and provision of additional information and files, to the Gardaí by HSE staff in the South East.
HSE staff involved were working on the basis of the standard practice whereby reports are not published in advance of live Garda investigations being finalised. Following publication of the Dignam report, the HSE and An Garda Siochána have established a liaison group in order to streamline publication of reports in the future.”