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Child with disability, abandoned at birth not receiving sufficient support

The Ombudsman for Children, Dr Niall Muldoon, today (15th January 2018) published Molly’s* case; an investigation into a complaint made on behalf of Molly who has Down Syndrome and severe autism and who was abandoned at birth. Molly’s foster carer complained to the Ombudsman for Children’s Office about the level of support and services being provided by Tusla and the HSE.

Speaking ahead of the publication of the report Niall said:

“Today I am publishing an investigation into a complaint made on behalf of Molly; a teenager with Down Syndrome and severe autism, who was abandoned at birth and who has been with her current foster carer since she was a baby.

“Molly is dependent on her foster carers in all areas of her care, including feeding, toileting, bathing, and dressing. She requires a wide range of therapies and services. Her foster carer complained to the OCO about the level of supports and services being provided by Tusla and the HSE. Although Molly brings joy and positivity to their home, her foster carer was struggling financially and emotionally to deal with her needs.

“We investigated Molly’s case and found that there was a lack of co-ordination between the Tusla and the HSE which meant that services and supports provided were insufficient.

“We also found that this is a problem facing many children with disabilities in care. In 2015 there were 472 children with a diagnosed moderate to severe disability in foster care, representing approximately 8% of the foster care population in Ireland.

“Following our investigation Tusla has committed to undertake a systemic review of the supports and services being offered to children in their care with a moderate to severe disability. They will also identify these children to the HSE to facilitate care planning and joint working for these children.

“The HSE has committed to include vulnerable children in state care in their performance indicators under Progressing Disability Services, and to ensure that any assessment procedures consider their specific vulnerability as child in care.

“The Government has also committed a total of €10m new funding for the HSE National Service Plan for 2018 which provides funding for respite supports and services.

“This is an important investigation highlighting the struggles of some of our most vulnerable children, many of whom cannot speak out for themselves. Foster carers and social workers all over the country are working tirelessly to support young people with disabilities who are in care, but we cannot be dependent on individual efforts, the system must support young people to reach their full potential.

“I very much welcome the commitments made by the HSE and Tusla to improve services and supports for these children. This will require support from both the Department of Children and Youth Affairs and the Department of Health. I look forward to seeing speedy progress in this area, allowing children with disabilities who are in the care of the State to reach their full potential and where possible to be supported to live in a home environment.”

– Molly’s case: How Tusla and the HSE provided and coordinated supports for a child with a disability in the care of the State