Woman stayed in foster home long after sex abuse claim

‘Mary’ was left with Cork foster father for two years after abuse allegation made in 2014

It was decided in September 2014 to take ‘Mary’ from the foster home at the centre of the sexual abuse allegations but she was not removed until February 2016. Photograph posed by model: iStock

It was decided in September 2014 to take ‘Mary’ from the foster home at the centre of the sexual abuse allegations but she was not removed until February 2016. Photograph posed by model: iStock

 

A young woman remained with a foster family in the Cork region for two years after allegations of sex abuse were made against a carer in the home, a report has found.

On Tuesday the Cabinet will consider an independent report into the case of “Mary”, a young woman with an intellectual disability who remained in the home after Tusla, the Child and Family agency, found credible claims of child sexual abuse had been made retrospectively in 2014 by a former resident.

The independent review, ordered by Tusla and the HSE, was carried out into her treatment by Dr Cathleen Callinan to establish the facts surrounding her care.

It found that allegations of child sexual abuse were made against the foster father in early 2014 by someone who had left the home. An investigation was carried out by Tusla that year. It concluded the claims were credible but did not relate to any children in the care of this man at that stage.

Criticism

Children were removed from the foster family by the Child and Family Agency and the carers were removed from the fostering panel. However Mary remained there because she was over 18 and so was no longer in statutory care.

The independent report finds that Tusla failed to take action because Mary was deemed an adult and not the subject of a care order. The review also confirms a decision was taken in September 2014 to remove Mary from the foster home at the centre of the sexual abuse allegations. However, she was not removed until February 2016 .

The report, which will be brought to Cabinet by Minister for Children Katherine Zappone and Minister for Health Simon Harris, strongly criticises this decision.

It says there should have been a clear and formal written referral from Tusla to the HSE and this could have helped progress the case. The independent review also found Tusla deviated from procedure and failed to put reliable safeguards in place.

It concludes there was a lack of shared understanding among all State agencies over Mary’s care.

The report adds: “The lack of clarity around the role and function of post holders had a negative impact on the overall management of the case.”

Investigation

Dr Callinan also found record-keeping standards are a significant deficit that requires attention by Tusla and the HSE.

In response the Government is expected to announce a new disability protocol between the two State agencies so young disabled people can access HSE-funded disability-related services when they reach 18. The cost of running this scheme will be met by Tusla until the end of 2017 but will have to be considered in the budget of the HSE in 2018. It is expected to cost €7 million a year.

The protocol will also allow for a “clear escalation process” that can be used by both agencies if an issue arises or if there is an unresolved matter regarding access to services.

A Government source said Mary’s case highlighted the risks people in care face when they reach adulthood. “It seems that when you reached 18 nobody had responsibility for those in foster care. The new protocol is highly significant and is operational immediately. It is overdue but nevertheless very welcome.

“It will provide clarity for those tasked with ensuring appropriate services are provided by the relevant agency to the children and young people who need them.”

Mary’s case is unconnected to the plight of “Grace”, who remained in the care of a foster family in the south-east for 20 years despite the home being at the centre of abuse allegations. This is now the subject of a commission of investigation by senior counsel Marjorie Farrelly.