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Ombudsman for Children expresses despair at situation facing children in care and lack of investment in Child Law Project

The Ombudsman for Children, Dr Niall Muldoon has today (Monday 8th) expressed his despair at the last volume of case reports published by the Child Law Project. He has also expressed serious concern about the fact that the Child Law Project has not been re-commissioned, and fears that this indicates the shutting down of open communication between the courts and the public in relation to children in care.

Ombudsman for Children, Dr Niall Muldoon said:

“The last volume of case reports published by the Child Law Project once again demonstrates the desperate situation facing so many of these vulnerable children in Ireland today. It is unheard of that judges now have to continuously and repeatedly hold Tusla to account for their failings in their statutory duty to children. It is not only judges that are worried. I have heard from social workers, social care workers and guardian ad litems (GAL) about their real fear for the welfare of these children. The shortage of appropriate placements for children, at all levels (foster, residential and special care) is not a new phenomenon and has, in fact, been flagged since the abolition of High Support Units, by Tusla, in 2016. However, the required funding and human resources have not been progressed due to a combination of Government intransigence and neglect of this sector.

“We have to ask ourselves, how have we fallen so far as a country that we appear unable to provide a highly vulnerable child, in the care of the state, with a safe and stable place to live? A social worker? A trusted adult that they know will care for them?

“We cannot accept any more excuses. What we need is a strong, fully funded, action plan by the State to meet the needs of children in care. Then and then only, can we believe that these children are truly valued.

“Our foster carers and invisible army of kinship carers must be properly recognised and given much more financial and professional support, as we all know that children thrive best in a family environment; and that is needed immediately. There is an urgent need for the Government to formalise kinship care in this country. Children should be supported to stay with their families where possible and relatives need support to make that happen.

“Also of serious concern to me is the fact that this is the last Child Law Report and the failure of the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth to tender for this project to continue. This year is the 15th Anniversary of the Ryan report, which exposed the darkest abuse of children in care, and yet this Government is allowing the only agency with authority to publicly report on these cases, to simply quietly dissolve, without any alternative in place. The Department is effectively shutting down the vital open communication between the courts and the public around the issues facing these most vulnerable of children. That cannot be allowed to happen.

“Children in care must be taken seriously by the State and the required resources invested to ensure every child is given the best chance to reach their potential. These children have overcome so much in their short lives and it is our job as the adults to do our very best for them. I also urge Government to keep this vital form of reporting open, by reinvesting in the Child Law Project which has provided an invaluable insight into this system since its inception in 2013, or tendering for a replacement organisation.”