Children Health Ireland (CHI), which manages children’s healthcare, has said that since 2016 “credible accounts [were] provided” in just 36 per cent of child sexual abuse allegations assessed at St Clare’s.
This does not mean in two-thirds of cases no abuse took place. There could be other reasons for a “credible account not provided” finding, CHI clarified, including the child’s non-engagement. Responsibility for concluding whether child sexual abuse has happened lies with Tusla, which “selects two categories of conclusion . . . founded or unfounded”.
Tara is one of seven mothers The Irish Times has met in recent months – all of whom have given detailed accounts of similarly “devastating” experiences with the childcare system – including the family law courts – from which they had expected support and protection.
Of the seven mothers, six had their children removed. Two have had their children returned. Six of them experienced domestic violence. Three alleged sexual abuse of their children. In two of these the alleged abusers won custody of the children while in the third case the alleged abuser, with Tusla’s support, won unsupervised access, which has since been revoked.
Six of the mothers were asked to undergo psychiatric assessments, with just one found to have had a serious mental-health challenge, namely depression requiring hospital treatment.
None can be identified due to the courts’ in-camera rule mandating absolute confidentiality by all parties to family law cases. The mothers could be held in contempt if identified as having spoken to a journalist about their cases. However, such is their anger and despair, they are among a growing number coming together for support and to raise their concerns.