Almost one-quarter of deaths of youths in care system in past decade were by suicide

New report outlines deaths of young people known to child protection system

Almost one-quarter of youths in care, or known to child protection services, who died over the last decade died as a result of suicide, according to a Tusla-commissioned report. File photograph: Alan Betson

Almost one-quarter of youths in care, or known to child protection services, who died over the last decade died as a result of suicide, according to a Tusla-commissioned report. File photograph: Alan Betson

 

Almost one-quarter of youths in care, or known to child protection services, who died over the last decade died as a result of suicide, according to a Tusla-commissioned report.

In the last 10 years, 206 deaths of youths were notified to the National Review Panel (NRP), the independent body that examines the deaths of children known to the child protection and welfare system.

While most died from natural causes, the NRP said 49 of the young people, who were aged 12 to 20, died from suicide. Other causes of death included accidents, drug overdose and a small number of homicides.

The NRP was established in 2010 following the publication of the Ryan report, the report of the commission of inquiry into child abuse, to review deaths and serious incidents involving children in care.

Its 2019 report, published on Monday, takes a 10-year overview of the number and causes of deaths of young people in contact with child protection services.

‘Recurring pattern’

NRP chairwoman Dr Helen Buckley said that while the number of deaths was not overrepresentative of children and young people in general, the deaths from suicide were the “most outstanding” element of the report.

“A recurring pattern in these cases has been the inability of families to connect their children with the appropriate services,” she said.

The report indicated that children and young people who died while in contact with social services had many complicating features in their day-to-day existence, Dr Buckley said, and in many instances, their parents’ lives were affected by mental illness, addiction and domestic violence. The children themselves frequently had needs related to disability, autism, education, addiction and psychological disorders which stretched their parents’ capacity to provide for them, she said.