Number of Mid West children taken into State care falls despite rise in referrals

The Tusla building on Mulgrave Street in Limerick City.

ADMISSIONS to state care of children in the Mid West have dropped by over half compared to 2018.

That’s despite figures showing that 2022 saw the highest number of children ever referred nationally to Tusla, the Child and Family Agency.

82,855 children were referred to Tusla last year across the island of Ireland, marking a 50 per cent increase on 2018 referrals, according to figures released to Aontú.

However, this increase is not reflected in the amount of children who go on to be taken into state care.

Figures for 2018 show that there were 85 children and young adults taken into state care in the Mid West.

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By 2022, this figure had dropped to 33, marking a decrease of 61 per cent.

Remarking on the figures, Limerick Aontú representative Sarah Beasley has called for the resignation of the Minister for Children Roderic O’Gorman, saying that the State is “failing” to protect children in its care.

“To put this in context, roughly 20,000 more children were referred to Tusla than sat the Leaving Cert last year,” said Ms Beasley on the nationwide referral figures.

“It is strange that while the number of children being referred to Tusla each year is increasing so drastically, the number actually being taken into care is falling.”

“I would question whether capacity in the fostering or residential care system is affecting the decision-making in this process. Are children being turned away because there simply isn’t capacity in the system?”

Of all six reporting regions for Tusla, only two reported an increase in the number of children taken into state care, Dublin North East (up 23 per cent) and the South West of the country with a 27 per cent increase.

The Mid West reported the largest drop in the number of children taken into care by far, with the next closest region – the South East – reporting a 10 per cent decrease.

The West/North West region saw a six per cent decrease, while Dublin Mid Leinster reported no change when comparing 2018 to 2022.

In a statement to the Limerick Post, Tusla said that keeping a child with their family is their first priority, and therefore not all children who are referred to them end up being taken into care.

“All referrals received by Tusla are screened and assessed as appropriate in line with ‘Children First: National Guidance for the Protection and Welfare of Children’,” a Tusla spokesperson said.

“The initial response for all referrals is to ensure that there are no immediate risks to the safety of the child, and to ensure there is an effective safety plan in place, and support for the child and their family, where there is a concern that the child is at ongoing risk of harm.

“It is also important to note that keeping a child with their family, where appropriate, is a preferable outcome. A child or young person is only brought into care as a last resort and only if it is in their best interest.”

The agency also said that any decision to take a child into care is either made voluntarily or by direction of the Court.

According to the data released to Aontú following a parliamentary question, of the 82,855 referrals, 10,000 were made by Gardaí, 4,000 were made by social workers, and another 4,000 were made by teachers.

93 of the referrals were reported as coming from probation officers, 92 from managers of Direct Provision Centres, 62 from addiction counsellors, seven from members of the clergy, and four from dentists.