Call for wider support for carers of children with disabilities

Foster carer in ‘Molly’ case says HSE, Tusla left her ‘financially, emotionally and physically drained’

The Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (ISPCC) and the Irish Foster Care Association have welcomed acceptance by Tusla of the Ombudsman For Children's report into the failure to provide adequate supports to the foster carer of a child with Down Syndrome and severe autism.

Fianna Fáil spokeswoman on disability Margaret Murphy O'Mahony called on Tusla to "get its act together with regard to services for children with disabilities that are in foster care."

She said “it’s clear to me that Minister (of State) for Disability Finian McGrath must ensure that Tusla has the resources needed to provide specialist expertise to social workers working with children with physical and intellectual disabilities.”

Labour spokesperson on children Seán Sherlock said he was "concerned that the Molly case could be the tip of the iceberg, and there are countless families out there where children in foster care don't have access to a basic care plan or pathway of care, leading to a lack of access to basic services."


He looked forward to the meeting of the Oireacthas Children’s Committee on Tuesday “when these issues can be teased out further.”

The ombudsman’s report found that a lack of coordination between Tusla and the HSE was responsible for denying adequate support to a foster parent caring for Molly.

The woman, who has been fostering the teenager since she was abandoned at birth, accused the HSE and Tusla of leaving her “financially, emotionally and physically drained”.

The ombudsman’s report demonstrated “how essential it is that children’s individual needs are recognised, and that the child protection and health and social care systems support children in all of their needs,” said ISPCC director of services Caroline O’Sullivan.

She also welcomed “the commitment by Tusla to undertake a systemic review of the supports and services being offered to children in their care with a moderate to severe disability” and “wishes to see this review made public without delay.”

‘Not good enough’

Catherine Bond, chief executive of the Irish Foster Care Association, said "our members tell us every day that they have to fight the system to get services for children in their care and this is not good enough."

Co-ordination between State agencies was “essential so that children in care do not fall between two State agencies, when this happens it is the children that lose out,” she said.

She also welcomed commitments made by the HSE and Tusla “to improve services and supports for these children and look forward to seeing these words put into action for the 472 children with disabilities in foster care.”

Speaking on RTÉ Radio's Today with Seán O'Rourke programme, Ombudsman for Children Niall Muldoon claimed that a system had developed between the HSE and Tusla which allowed them to pass responsibility back and forth.

Dr Muldoon said the foster family in the case had to fight “every step of the way” for help. The needs of children such as ‘Molly’ could be anticipated for years in advance and budgeted for accordingly rather than the parents having to fight to get receipts paid, he said.

He admitted that his report had taken longer (three years) than he would have liked as he pushed the two agencies for details.

“This is something that needs to be taken on at the highest level by Government departments,” he said.