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After the Ryan Report...The Next Big Scandal?

category national | rights, freedoms and repression | feature author Saturday July 11, 2009 18:45author by Judy - WSM (personal capacity) Report this post to the editors

A child protection worker speaks out

featured image
What Scandal Next?

The Ryan report into the abuse that occurred in the industrial and reformatory schools – which were run by the religious orders and supposedly under the supervision of the state – has recently been released. At this system’s height there were 7,998 children in the care of the state. Since the release of the report we have heard politicians rushing to condemn this system and saying how shocking it was. I find it incredible to hear the politicians pandering to the press in their condemnation of the old industrial school system when they know that children under their care in 2009 are being neglected still.

Considering the gravity of the Ryan Report it would be natural to assume that the government is now doing everything in its power to prevent the abuse of children in state care. You would like to think that considering how wrong the government got it in the past, they would be doing their utmost to protect the children in their care. However that is not the case.

The government has confirmed that 6,500 child protection cases have not been allocated a social worker. There are over 1000 children who have been taken into state care that exist without a social worker: the state has no idea what is going on where they have been placed. No idea if these children are facing neglect, emotional, psychological, sexual or physical abuse. High caseloads, staff burnout and massive staff turnovers mean that a child can have as many as 6 social workers in the space of a year. That is if they are lucky to have one at all. The reality is that if we intervene at all it’s nearly always too late.

My official title is community care social worker. But no one calls themselves that. We are child protection social workers. This is an indication of where the emphasis in our work lies. That is, to intervene only after the abuse has occurred. There is no prevention, no monitoring, only reaction after a child has been abused.

I’ve seen children move from foster carer to foster carer only to end up in a residential unit or secure unit when they reach ‘crisis point’ with no attempt to intervene before that. I know of a 10 year old boy who has already had 15 foster placements. He’ll end up in a residential unit eventually. The horror of some residential units cause many young people to turn to destructive behaviour as an escape mechanism.

About 800 children leave state care every year with no after care or no statutory right to it. The outcomes for many people who went through the industrial school system were not positive. Homelessness, mental health issues and alcoholism have marred many people’s lives since leaving the system. So what are we doing now to prevent the same happening to children in state care today? The answer is next to nothing. Once a kid hits 18, legally the HSE is covered and doesn’t care what happens to that young person next. A Focus Ireland study on young people leaving care in Ireland indicated that two years after leaving care 68% of those who had been in health board care had experienced homelessness.

One of the most telling signs that the government really does not care about the children in its care is the shocking fact that over 454 migrant children have gone missing from state care since 2000. When Madeline McCann went missing the outpour of media and emotion was overwhelming. But these children are forgotten about and not even given a column inch in a local newspaper. A report is filled and that’s it. These are the most vulnerable in our society and the government doesn’t appear to care.

The practice of ‘covering one’s own ass’ has become foremost in many social worker’s minds. Meeting and decisions that can cause more damage are carried out so that ‘at least it’s down on paper.’ Bureaucracy has taken over and social workers feel that they are becoming more like administrators that have to record every detail of every conversation rather then actually spend time with the families and child. We are all waiting for the next scandal and want to know that when it hits we cannot be scapegoated.

At a recent conference Prof Pat Dolan (director of the Child and Family Research Centre at NUI Galway) hit the nail on the head when he stated: ‘I sense a panic reaction among professionals, a defensiveness that is going to make things even worse. Early intervention is being done less as professionals seek to protect the system and themselves rather than the children. There’s a tendency to get into form filling . . . making sure they are covered rather than looking at high-risk cases.’

And so the government response is to soberly look at the camera to indicate disgust at the Ryan report and to put increasing pressure on social workers to not screw up. As a result children who would not normally be removed for a home are being removed and why? To cover one’s own ass and that of the government. It would be nice if we had a clearer picture of what they were being removed to. With the “head in the sand” policy the government are taking, only 20 years will tell.

The reality is that another scandal lies in waiting. I know, as do most of my colleagues, as do those that run the country, that it is just a matter of time before it breaks. However, those children are not heard or cared about by the politicians – children can’t vote and the media coverage dies away. If we don’t want history to repeat itself, we need a system that values the rights of children more than the profits of bankers.

Related Link:
author by Dave Donnellanpublication date Wed Jul 08, 2009 08:56author address author phone Report this post to the editors

One of the things that struck me at the demonstration on the 10th June to remember the victims of abuse in clerical run institutions was how difficult the post-institution experience has been also, for many who attended these institutions. One of the ex-residents (or inmates as she preferrd to be called) told me 'we have a look about us'. Some very precious part of their humanity was robbed from them in these institutions and they continue to struggle through life because of it. But they need more from us than to break into a rant about the powers who were responsible (and those powers do need to be held accountable). They need to be listened to and protected like they weren't in those places. Like the children today who suffer similarly from the inadequacies in the Social Care system, so excellently portrayed in the above article, the voice of that suffering needs to be held in focus.

author by citizenpublication date Wed Jul 08, 2009 09:52author address author phone Report this post to the editors

The 'cover your ass' attitude is partly a reaction to the compo culture in the civil litigation courts. In schools many male teachers dare not talk alone to a child outside lesson time. I've met a father of four children who has an excellent teaching record and participates in community affairs. He told me he always leaves a classroom door open when talking to a child and prefers if he can get one of the female teachers to do the talking job.

Apart from that there are many parts of the country where neighbours who suspect that children are being ill treated by parents dare not go to the guards, or even a doctor or priest, because they are unsure of what legal repercussions such action might bring if, by any chance, their suspicions proved unfounded. Remember so many months ago that horrible child incest case involving an alcoholic mother? The Sunday Tribune reported on the case and a couple of villagers posted blog comments contradicting witness reports that the children were poorly clothed and lacking in hygiene.

On the Ryan report revelations, there remains the question of how many individuals who visited industrial and reformatory schools as tradesmen, suppliers of meat and vegetables, and as chaplains and education officials, sensed that degrading things were going on. The testimony of a few such individuals is in the Ryan report, but how many others were there during all those awful years? Why did bishops and ministers for education and justice do nothing, absolutely nothing, when mysterious deaths occurred and complaints were received about ill treatment?

author by shoegirlpublication date Wed Jul 29, 2009 12:23author address author phone Report this post to the editors

So we have taken children away from being beaten and raped by nuns, priests and known carers in "detention" centres called reform schools and instead dumped them onto the street to be beaten and raped, and hooked on drugs by unknown strangers, while they freeze and starve. So where is the improvement?

author by stephenpublication date Fri Sep 18, 2009 00:08author email stephen_lollol at yahoo dot ieauthor address author phone Report this post to the editors

i got a niece in care on 18 of january 09 i be assesses on 28th Aprill 09 to carers for her
famil members looking after her would be in a
position to provide the high level of care she requires at this time she is still under weight for her age and still feeds very slowly this does not however rule out family members applying to care for her when she is a bit old and her weight and feeding issues have been resolved in court judge say eas advised that me period of eight weeks.

now she is 9-month-old: and 4Week and
feed and weight is now been resolved
a is still in care back in court 6 october is apply
for another extension of the interim care
the social work go for a full care order in november or december

could care for her in the familie home at the social work is still say no

Thank You

author by Waynepublication date Fri Sep 18, 2009 01:31author address author phone Report this post to the editors

To this day the church still have to much power in Irish Society and scandals are STILL unfolding (easily accessilbe from a google search or from websites like Clerical Whispers) and that such corruption still exists should be a cause of grave concern to fellow citizens. The CRUELTY inflicted on people by Priests and Nuns will NEVER EVER be forgotten and many living today cannot escape those miserable memories of so much pain. At the same time many nuns now live in nice houses and have land (THE PEOPLES' LAND) while victims of such abuse are living in Flats alone as some could not marry as their nerves were damaged so much. Good bye to Catholic Ireland?? Not necessarily so. I do go to mass in St. Teresa's Grafton Street but sometimes it makes me SICK to hear priests pontificating after all people went true. Then the question arises should priests and nuns be able to marry? Would this fulfill their sexual desires? All in all, shame of the church. And shame on those who are part of the SYSTEMATATIC COVER-UP.

author by Swift - Chidren and their Protectionpublication date Wed Nov 18, 2009 17:07author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Humbled by the pain caused to people who have written on the earlier postings. However, in a changing economy for the worst, with a prediction that Ireland could become a sex capital of Europe, we need to hasten our legislation to protect our vulnerable children.

The media reported today that there is a Child Abuse network in the UK (it is probable in Ireland also). This hidden network of child sex abuse traffickers is reported on by Barnardos in Britain. Barnardos report that one in six children whom they counsel for sexual exploitation talk about being passed around by paedophiles. The technique is simple. An apparently kind man will buy them food and drink and then give them a mobile phone. Then the process of isolation starts and after 6 months these children in their aloneness and isolation get sucked into the murky waters of paedophiles.

We need to be alert here in the Island of Ireland. Spare a thought for a vulnerable child on these dark and lonely nights. Observe. Watch out for gifts of mobile phones and always be alert to a vested interest by a third party! We have a responsibility, even if not explicitly stated in our Constitution, to ensure the welfare of our Children.

author by Abusedpublication date Thu Nov 19, 2009 00:31author address author phone Report this post to the editors

"So we have taken children away from being beaten and raped by nuns, priests and known carers in "detention" centres called reform schools and instead dumped them onto the street to be beaten and raped, and hooked on drugs by unknown strangers, while they freeze and starve. So where is the improvement?"

Well, now there is more public money available for bailing out our rich friends in the construction / banking / corporate sectors because we are not wasting it on subdising those helping vulnerable children. Get with the program ok? Duh!

author by trevorpublication date Thu Nov 19, 2009 13:46author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I share the concern of the previous posters. Social services and education programmes are being scrapped by the government to pay for bank bailouts and the economists are saying that the inequality , poverty and social exclusion that gave rise to these abuses of vunerable children is likely to return . With the publication of the Ryan Report , the government has effectively consigned the abuse of children to history , and effectively given the Catholic Church as it exists today a clean bill of health. Could we find the churches and other "charitable " institutions again being invited to play a role in the education and welfare of our children?

Kevin Flanagan whose brother was "the boy with the broken arm " mentioned in the Artane report has organised a public meeting in the Axis Centre for next month where these points will be raised . All survivors of abuse and their supporters are welcome.

Details of the December meeting here .

author by bernadette cook - nonepublication date Sun Jan 10, 2010 22:22author email bernettas at dsal dot pipex dot comauthor address author phone Report this post to the editors

at last a social worker with a brain i disapeared ages 11 to another country no one looked for me even though they knew i was in danger i have all my files to prove this if one person had bothered to ask me if i was ok i would have gotten away from the abuse years sooner and maybe been alot happier with adifferent family as thing stood i left age 15 to start my own life and i survived and will tell the tale ! very loudley ! just won my case wthish took me 10 years got justice but i cannot buy back my childhood and neither can any other abused child .

author by Sceptic - None whatsoeverpublication date Mon Jan 11, 2010 10:06author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Hello ..Just to add to your horrible dilemna Bernadette and i dont wish to sound like Cruella .

Why not have another go at the authorities for their neglect of you as a child ,Ask for legal advice on a law known as
''Reckless Endangerment'' ..Hope you stuff them ...

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