Children removed from their parents for safety reasons and left to sleep in Garda stations

Children separated from their parents for safety reasons have been left to sleep in stations and hospitals in Garda due to a lack of alternative accommodation, according to a new study conducted for Tusla.

The continued use of ‘inappropriate’ accommodation for children temporarily removed from their homes due to serious safety risks has been criticized by academics at NUI Galway who conducted the research, which was disseminated to Tusla staff. days.

The study was commissioned by Tusla, the national agency for children and families, on the Garda’s use of emergency powers to temporarily remove children from their homes.

The powers, under section 12 of the Child Custody Act 1991, allow nurseries to take children to a safe place if there is an immediate risk to them at their home, when Tusla does not have time to seek a court order.

The study looked at 452 cases where Section 12 was used between 2016 and 2017. In the majority of cases, Tusla placed the children in either emergency foster care, a private family provider. reception or in one of the agency’s residential units.

However, in a fifth of the cases, the children were taken to hospitals as a temporary place of safety overnight or, in a small number of other cases, to stations in Garda.

Behavior problems

The study said the lack of suitable placements or beds, especially for older teens with behavioral issues, needed “urgent consideration” by Tusla.

The most common reason children were taken from their homes was due to parenting difficulties, followed by parental alcohol or drug abuse, child behavioral disturbances, and child neglect.

In other cases where children slept in Garda stations overnight, social workers often faced a “crisis” trying to get a suitable placement the next morning, or quickly assess whether it was. safe to take them home.

The study said that placing children in Garda stations or hospitals was “not appropriate” and that it was “best” for children to be close to their families and social environment if they were. away from their homes.

A spokesperson for Tusla said in recent years that it has increased its emergency foster care and residential care services, and that the agency “continues to expand and develop our alternative care ”.

The use of emergency powers was previously the subject of a 2017 report by children’s rights expert Dr Geoffrey Shannon, who was critical of Tusla.

Commenting on recent research, Dr Shannon said: “Garda stations and public hospitals should not be used as the initial de facto safe haven for children removed under Section 12.”

At risk

A full after-hours service from Tusla, available for children at risk, should be developed “as a matter of priority,” he said.

In 20% of the cases, the children abducted by the gardaí were under the age of five. In the vast majority of cases, gardaí contacted social workers in Tusla on the day they removed the child from the home.

Research found that in 44% of cases, the child was later returned to their parents or their homes. Some 56 children were taken from their homes more than once under section 12 powers during the period investigated by the researchers.

In just under a third of cases, Tusla chose to seek state care, either by court order or by voluntary care agreement.

Social workers described serious problems with the practice of placing children in train stations or hospitals in Garda, in interviews conducted for the study.

In some cases, gardaí have been left sitting with the child overnight in a hospital emergency department, research has found.

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