News & Events

PQ on historical abuse in foster care

Below is a Parliamentary Question asked in the Dáil on provisions made for survivors of abuse in State-paid foster care from 1953-1967

Deputy Sandra McLellan asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Dr. James Reilly Zoom on Dr. James Reilly the provision this Government made for survivors of child abuse, who lived under State-paid foster care during the period 1953 to 1967, which abuse was reported by social workers and the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children to the Government of the day; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Deputy Sandra McLellan: I wish to ask the Minister what provision this Government has made for survivors of child abuse who lived under State-paid foster care during the period 1953 to 1967, which was reported by social workers and the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, NSPCC, to the Government of the day.

Deputy James Reilly, Minister for Children: The report of the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse – the Ryan report – was published on 20 May, 2009 and was one of a range of measures which were put in place following the formal apology by the State to the victims of abuse. The Residential Institutions Redress Board was also established in order to make payments to persons who, as children, were abused while residents in industrial schools, reformatories and other institutions subject to State regulation or inspection.

While the inclusion of children abused in foster care was raised during the passage of the legislation setting up the redress board, foster care settings were not included within the scope of the scheme. Following the publication of the Ryan report in 2009, there were a range of requests for the redress scheme to be extended, including requests to include foster care settings. Having considered these requests, the previous Government announced its decision not to revise those arrangements in April 2010.

The Deputy will be aware that the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes and Certain Related Matters has been established by the Government and will thoroughly examine the experiences of the many mothers and children who were resident in a mother and baby home over the period 1922 to 1998. Linked to this examination, the commission will consider the practices and procedures relating to the placement of children outside of mother and baby homes.

The Government has no plans currently to carry out any further systemic historical reviews at this time. If an allegation of historical abuse is made, the Child and Family Agency, under its statutory responsibility under section 3 of the Child Care Act, 1991, is required to investigate such allegations. This would include establishing whether the alleged perpetrator presents a current risk to children. If the allegation is made by a child, the agency would also be required to take the steps it considers necessary to protect the child in question. An Garda Síochána also has a role regarding historical abuse in the context of investigating any criminal aspects involved. It is of course always open to any individual to have recourse to the courts in respect of any allegation of a crime, including historical abuse.

Additional information not given on the floor of the House

The Deputy will be aware that survivors of child abuse can access the services of the national counselling service which is a professional, confidential counselling and psychotherapy service available free of charge in all regions of the country.

Deputy Sandra McLellan: The Government cannot ignore the fact that there is a large number of victims of child abuse who suffered terribly while in State-paid and -sponsored foster care in the past. There are many cases we know of where children faced horrific abuse while in foster care with little or no monitoring of their welfare. In one specific case, an individual suffered 14 years of abuse between 1953 and 1967. Physical, mental and sexual abuse while in foster care is evidenced by reports from social workers and the NSPCC. These reports were made to the Government of the day and were ignored. My office has been approached with specific cases that are devastating.

These victims have approached both this and the previous Government for support. The previous Fianna Fáil-led Government did nothing to address the issue. The current Government now appears to be equally reluctant to look into it or give any type of support to these victims. These children in foster care were failed by the State for years with no protection from abuse. What will the Minister do to afford these victims of abuse redress or justice? As convenor of the mother and baby homes commission, can the Minister give a commitment to investigate these cases of abuse under State care? If so, when will he look into it? These victims have been failed for decades and have been fighting for their voices to be heard. It is the least they deserve.

Deputy James Reilly: There have been a number of positive developments regarding foster care that have taken place in recent times. The primary legislation governing child care policy is the Child Care Act, 1991, and the Child and Family Agency Act, 2013. The report of the working group on foster care published in 2001 addresses meeting the needs of children in foster care, meeting the needs of children with additional needs in foster care, helping foster carers meet the children’s needs, placement of children with relative foster carers, providing safe care for children in foster care and future organisation and management of the foster care service.

I am aware that there have been many terrible stories of people in foster care in the past.

Deputy Sandra McLellan:  Terrible.

Deputy James Reilly: The focus to date has been on ensuring there is no repeat of that and that the children in foster care today are safe from any such abuse.