Tusla carrying out review of staff identified in ‘Grace’ case reports

McGrath aims to set up inquiry into case of woman left with family despite abuse allegations

Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, insisted the “Grace” case “does not reflect current foster care placements” which are “highly regulated”. File photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, insisted the “Grace” case “does not reflect current foster care placements” which are “highly regulated”. File photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

 

Tusla, the State agency responsible for foster care, has said staff members identified in two reports into alleged sexual and physical abuse suffered by an intellectually disabled woman at a southeast foster home are the subject of an internal review.

Two reports into the case of “Grace”, an intellectually disabled woman who remained in the care of a foster family for more than 20 years despite allegations of serious sexual abuse, were published by the HSE on Tuesday.

“We can confirm that Tusla staff referred to in these reports were identified to us by the HSE in the last two weeks,” said Tusla. “We have met with staff concerned to advise them of the publication of the reports and have completed an initial HR review process.

“We are currently examining the reports published today and will further review the individual staff involvement in the case at the time. If any issues emerge as a result of this review, further HR processes will be invoked, as necessary.

“We are actively liaising with An Garda Síochána to ensure that our own internal review processes do not impede their separate, ongoing investigation. Additionally, we will fully co-operate with the forthcoming commission of inquiry.”

Tusla insisted the “Grace” case “does not reflect current foster care placements” which are “highly regulated” both externally by the Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) and internally by Tusla.

It said 94 per cent of all children currently in foster care have an allocated social worker, and in the “small number” of cases where a child does not, they are monitored by a team leader to ensure their safety and wellbeing.

Minister of State for Disability Issues Finian McGrath said he would bring a memorandum to Government next week regarding the establishment of a commission of inquiry into these matters, as well as the terms of reference.

“I have been mindful that at the heart of this matter is the care of vulnerable people who have relied on the State to look out for their best interests, and our concerns that this care has not been of the quality which they had every right to expect,” he said.

“I cannot emphasise too strongly how concerned I am about the serious allegations addressed in the reports and the need to establish the facts of the matter for once and for all.”

‘Speedy and thorough’

Irish Foster Care Association chief executive Catherine Bond said it was vital the inquiry be “speedy and thorough”.

“It is vital that the inquiry proceeds thoroughly and speedily and leaves no stone unturned in getting to the truth,” she said. “It will also be important that whatever we learn is acted upon to ensure the rights of children in care are fully vindicated.

“In particular, we need to ensure that the resources required are put in place to ensure that all children in foster care get the social work support they require and that all foster carers are properly assessed, supported and supervised.”

Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children chief executive Grainia Long said it was “simply not good enough” that the State continues to commission reports and inquiries into “the ways in which children have been failed”.

“Foster care is now the responsibility of Tusla, the Child and Family Agency,” she said. “There is a need for a significant focus in this area, as a matter of urgency. There must be comprehensive assessments and ongoing monitoring of foster placements.

“It is evident that the system that existed to protect and support vulnerable children did not do so. These reports span two decades, with numerous allegations of abuse reported and children being placed in this foster care placement as recently as 2013.”

Barnardos chief executive Fergus Finlay said the case was “utterly shameful” and that the State had “utterly abandoned” the woman in question in terms of its duty of care.

“We see from these reports that the duty of care was abandoned in the case of this young woman, and also in the cases of the many others,” he said. “This is utterly unacceptable and raises very serious concerns about the welfare of our young people.”

Connect provides professional telephone-based counselling and support to survivors at Freephone 1800477477 in the Republic and 0080047747777 in Northern Ireland.