Alcohol a factor for four in five care cases

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Alcohol and substance misuse was a factor for four out of five at-risk children who were put into special care, according to a report on childcare services in Ireland.

The review of 59 children put in special care over two years examined their history, health, education and risk factors associated when they also left care.

According to the Children Acts Advisory Board report, health chiefs need to review the low levels of admission to special care and the poor outcomes for some minors and whether this is acceptable.

In 2007, applications for 59 children for special care were made by social workers. While risk factors for nearly half of those over the two years lessened while they were in care, social workers said that placements for one in every five of the children had a negative effect.

Young males were more likely to be at risk of engaging in criminal activity while females more often showed sexual behaviour risk features, the report found.

Nearly half of the special care placements were made for 15-year-olds, a third for 12- to-14-year-olds while a quarter were for 16- to 17-year-olds.

The report found that the needs of children who had experienced homelessness going into care were not addressed adequately.

Social workers said it was also difficult to get onward placements for children when making special care applications and that step down units were needed on sites for care.

A third of the children reverted to risk-taking behaviour after leaving care, social workers said – adding that a child tends to “run amok”.

Three out of five special care applications were for children who had not attended school for at least 12 months before their placement.

The report found that 79% of childcare applications identified alcohol and/or substance misuse as a risk factor. Some females were also using heroin, it said.

Source: The Irish Examiner, 02/10/10
Journalist: Juno McEnroe