At the Oireachtas Children’s Committee meeting 9 May 2023 to discuss pre-legislative scrutiny of the Child Care (Amendment) Bill 2023 we learned that at best there’s downright ignorance on the part of officials in the upper echelons of Tusla, and at worst, there’s a deliberate attempt to cover up what’s actually happening on the ground.
Cormac McQuinlan, Tusla’s Assistant National Director Practice Reform in response to a question from Senator Lynn Ruane went to great lengths to convince the committee that children are only taken into care when all other options to keep the child at home is exhausted.
Senator Ruane said she’s currently supporting a family where a newborn was taken into care at birth. The excuse given by social workers to a family member who said she would take the baby was that the two bedroom apartment where she lives with her daughter is too small to accommodate the baby.
Ireland’s leading advocacy group for mothers wronged by Tusla, the Gardaí and family law courts, the Alliance of Birthmothers Campaigning for Justice (ABC) has been raising the issue of newborn babies removed from their mothers shortly after birth.
Tusla doesn’t compile data on newborns taken into care. The latest figures show that Tusla have 184 children under the age of two years in state care.
A mother who is a victim of domestic violence recently told ABC about her experience of having her 5 day old newborn baby removed.
“My solicitor rang me up on Monday morning, told me how to present myself to the courts on Wednesday.
My baby had alarms on him. And I wasn’t allowed to leave the ward with my baby.
I was supported by a nurse in case I done a runner from the hospital with my baby.
So I went down to court. It was Wednesday and it was criminal court sittin the same day.
And I was breastfeeding my son. So I had to pump my breast milk in front of a lot of people, there was no privacy.
My solicitor told me the best option would be to agree to a 21 day interim care order for my child.
So me thinking okay, she’s my legal team, I agreed to it.
The social worker stood up and said I had another 24 hours to spend with my son before I had to hand him off to Tusla.
So all that night nurses were in and out. I wasn’t allowed close my curtain when I was breastfeeding him and I had to keep my curtains open.
Early that morning the midwife came down to me and told me get my son ready for handover, that the social workers will be there to collect him at two o’clock. And she said this in front of the full ward.
So I had to express as much milk as I could for my son to go with him. And I watched them get him dressed and put him into his car seat ready to go and a security guard came up to tell me that the social workers are downstairs waiting for my son. And he was taken from the back of the hospital by the social workers.
So I had to strap him into the car myself and kiss him goodbye. I didn’t get to see him until three days later.”
Subsequently Tusla recommended that the baby be placed in the care of the father who was subsequently granted full custody. Tusla has closed the case. The father has denied the mother access to the child who is now three years old.
Social workers told the mother that access is a civil matter and has nothing to do with them now.
What was this mother’s crime?
She was the victim of domestic violence and coercive control in a previous relationship that led to her partner getting a lengthy jail sentence.
Tusla removed her children saying that she had failed to protect them from witnessing violence. These children are in state care without any reunification plans in place. In addition the siblings are separated and have not seen each other in several years.
When the mother became pregnant in a subsequent relationship, the fact that she already had children in state care was flagged.
Social workers made her life hell throughout the pregnancy. She was bombarded daily with phone calls and visits to her home. The only let-up was at the weekends. She was hospitalised a number of times for stress related conditions, including dangerously high blood pressure. The social workers appeared to have absolutely zero regard for in utero stress on the unborn baby.
Anna Kavanagh, ABC Convenor says the unbroken chain of state abuse of mothers and children continues to the present day. “There’s a constant drip feed of disclosures into what Tusla, the Gardai and the family law courts are doing to mothers and children. It’s only a matter of time before this drip becomes a torrent,” she says. “The longer it takes for the state to face up to what’s happening, the greater the pain and suffering of victims, and in the long run, the higher the claims for damages that will have to be met by taxpayers,” she warns.