Children and the care system

Sir, – I refer to Patrick Freyne's fine tribute to Shane Griffin and Shane's observation that many of the homeless on our streets had been "in care" ("Journey from care child to fearless activist", January 18th).

We look back in horror and anger at the treatment of children at risk in Letterfrack and Dangan in the middle decades of the last century and wonder how Irish society could have been so blind to the neglect and abuse of some of their most impoverished and vulnerable children. I suspect that in a few more decades Irish citizens will look back at us in horror and anger and wonder the same.

I am by no means sure that as citizens we have progressed significantly in taking responsibility for those children whose family situations are such that they require State care and for whom foster care has not worked.

For several years I taught in a special school for adolescent Traveller children. Most of them were fine young people, who struggled at times with the challenges associated with marginalisation and first-generation literacy. Due to parental addiction problems, a tiny minority of these students, two in my 11 years of teaching in that school, had severe behavioural problems which warranted full-time care. It was almost impossible to find a secure educational facility for them where they would receive the care, education and psychological support which they needed.


We have read in the pages of this newspaper of children at risk being housed in B&Bs and of the frustration of our judges who have had to send young people who have consistently broken the law to institutions in England.

The cost – personal and social – of continuing to bury our heads in the sand in relation to this matter are immense.

These young people have no votes. Those of us who do might, perhaps, raise the question on doorsteps in the next days. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 18.