Social worker urged foster mother of ‘Molly’ to complain
Report finds actions of HSE and Tusla had ‘negative effect’ on teenager with Down syndrome
Ombudsman for Children Niall Muldoon: Foster mother brought initial complaint to him after she had fought in vain to advocate for the services that Molly needed. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill
A Tusla social worker advised the foster mother in the “Molly” case to complain to the Ombudsman for Children about gaps in services between Tusla and the HSE, it emerged on Tuesday.
The day before, the Ombudsman for Children published findings that the actions of the HSE and Tusla had had a “negative effect” on the teenage girl, named “Molly” in the report, who had Down syndrome and severe autism. It found her foster mother had been affected physically, emotionally and financially as she fought to advocate for the services that Molly needed. The girl has been with her foster family from the time she was four months old.
The report states that the initial complaint was brought to the Ombudsman for Children by the foster mother, and that a full investigation began in August 2016.
The chief investigator in the case, Ciara McKenna-Keena, told the Oireachtas Committee on Children and Youth Affairs on Tuesday that Molly had a care plan in place and an allocated social worker. Her foster mother also had a social worker.
“It was her link social worker who came forward and said, ‘You should report this to the Ombudsman for Children,’” said Ms McKenna-Keena. She agreed with committee member Sean Sherlock TD it was “ironic” that a Tusla social worker advised the foster mother to make the complaint against two State bodies, one of which was their own employer.
“The foster family had been approved [by Tusla] for Molly’s’ age group but not for her level of disability. The social workers had to advocate to HSE disability services to get those services and they were not forthcoming. The social workers were as frustrated as the foster family.”
Ms McKenna-Keena was speaking at the committee, as Children’s Ombudsman Niall Muldoon addressed it on his office’s 2016 annual report.
He said he did not believe measures in place to tackle homelessness properly addressed “the disproportionate and long-term impact that homelessness has on children”. The most recent figures show there were 3,333 children in homelessness accommodation in November 2017.
“I . . . remain concerned about how children and families are going to be helped out of this nightmare and how long it will take,” said Mr Muldoon. He called for a commitment on how long homeless families would be placed in family “hubs”. “There is also an urgent need to implement national quality standards for homeless services,” he said.
Since April 2017 his office has been able to receive complaints on behalf of children in direct provision (DP). He and staff have visited all DP centres. “We have been shocked at the difference in standards between centres.” He was also concerned at continued reluctance among those living in DP to make complaints to his office.