Ombudsman to raise ‘serious concerns’ about child trauma services

The Ombudsman for Children will raise “serious concerns” about inadequate services for children who have suffered trauma from abuse or neglect.

In his 2021 annual report, released Tuesday, Dr. Niall Muldoon highlights the case of a foster carer, Anne, who found it almost impossible to get therapeutic support for three children aged nine, 10 and 12, under state guardianship. who displayed sexualized behaviour, -harming, expressing suicidal thoughts and stealing from school and shops.

She described having to “fight” for services, and none were “capable of addressing the therapeutic needs of children who had experienced trauma.”

Anne’s complaint was among the 2,012 received by the Office of the Ombudsman for Children (OCO) last year, a “significant increase” of 79 percent compared to 1,187 in 2020. The increase was mainly due to 908 complaints related to Covid, including the use of masks. in schools, the interruption of the Exit Certificate and the closure of daytime rest and disability services.

In the case of the three traumatized foster children, Dr. Muldoon’s office found that the oldest, a girl, was cared for by the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS), but the service he said she “also required long-term trauma-informed therapy… she was not in a position to provide this and that it was Tusla’s responsibility.”

The Health Service Executive’s primary care psychology service provided a short-term intervention for the two youngest children, “but stated that they were not in a position to provide a long-term intervention.”

“There was a lack of clarity about which service was responsible for meeting the therapeutic needs of the children…Anne told us that in the five years since the children were first received, no service had been identified to address the trauma that they had experienced. ”, says the report.

Following OCO’s intervention, Tusla has taken “significant steps” to provide children with the services they need, even though they are not in their community and have to travel to access them.

“This case raised serious concerns about the provision of therapeutic support to children who have suffered trauma from possible abuse or neglect,” the report says.

“There seems to be a gap in… the provision of psychological and mental health services by the State to children who have experienced trauma. This is despite growing international recognition of the impact of trauma on health and well-being outcomes for children and into adulthood.”

school closures

The government failed, the report says, to “sufficiently consider and address” the needs of the most vulnerable children during school closures due to COVID-19, especially those experiencing mental health difficulties, homeless children , children living in direct provision, children with disabilities and nomads and nomads. gypsy children.

The closures “mainly had negative impacts” on children’s mental health and their right to nutrition when they lost access to school meals.

In many cases, the closures “increased children’s exposure to harm and abuse, including domestic violence” and reduced opportunities for professionals to “identify, monitor and report on the protection and well-being of children.”

The report notes: “Those already experiencing educational disadvantage were disproportionately affected.” It calls on the government to “seriously consider” child rights impact assessments when such radical measures are taken in the future.

The adverse impact of homelessness on children is highlighted in the case of two children, six-year-old James and three-year-old Rosie, who had been in emergency accommodation for three years. Rosie had been born homeless. Her health problems had been exacerbated by ongoing repair and maintenance problems at the emergency accommodation.

The family’s local authority did not initially respond to inquiries from the OCO about handling the case. Following OCO’s “escalation” of engagement, a three-bedroom house was identified for the family. Parents told the OCO in January that James and Rosie “were like different kids” in their home.

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