November 13, 2013

African families '20 times more likely' to end up in child care courts –

report Nicola Anderson

NEGLECT is the number one reason for children to be taken into care, commonly because a parent is suffering from a mental illness.

African families are '20 times more likely* to end up in child care courts, according to the first Interim Report of the Child Care Law Reporting Project.

Unveiled by Chief Justice Susan Denham, the report paints a picture of a "cohort of children who need protection and nurture if they are to grow and develop and who are not getting this from their parents for various reasons".

A mere lOpc of child care orders relate to married par- ents. Almost half involved sin- gle parents, mainly mothers, while the rest were cohabiting or separated couples, includ- ing formerly cohabiting cou- ples.

The information is based on the analysis of data collected from 333 'in camera' cases between December 2012 and July 2013.

The most recent information shows that in 2011, 3,358 chil- dren had been put into care, with 2,797 children informally in voluntary care – generally living with relatives with the agreement of their parents.

The reason for children being taken into care was often "mul- tiple" the report found, with mental illness the single most common reason for children being neglected, and intellectual disability also a sig- nificant contributor to child neglect.

Neglect was often combined with alcohol or drug abuse, domestic violence or homeless- ness. In the most severe cases, young children were found in filthy circumstances, unrespon- sive and clearly delayed in development.

Grateful One young child had been diag- nosed with an intellectual dis- ability when taken into care.

That disappeared after he had spent a year in foster care.

A mere 3.6pc of cases relatedto children from the Travellercommunity, although the reportpointed out it had no way ofdetermining ethnicity otherthan through the evidence. Thereport noted that one in five ofchildren taken into care hadspecial needs, usually psycho-logical or educational.

The authors expressed con-cern over the "disproportionatenumber" of African childrenwho were the subject of pro-ceedings, representing llpc ofthe total number of cases, risingto 14pc in Dublin, Some of the children wereunaccompanied minors or hadbeen abandoned in Ireland bytheir parents. Among the caseswere three older African chil-dren abandoned by their parents – or trafficked here by people claiming to be their parents – and who were "grateful"to end up in foster care.