By KITTY HOLLAND
Disabled parents’ children removed with ‘no support’
THE STATE is removing children from parents who have mild intellectual disabilities “with little or no effort being made to support these people as parents”, lobby group Inclusion Ireland has said.
Deirdre Carroll, its chief executive, said the numbers of people with an intellectual disability coming to them for advice and support when faced with having their children removed had been “growing over the past two years”.
In the majority of cases, the HSE was successful in having care orders granted when the parent or parents had intellectual disabilities.
“We understand social workers will err on the side of caution if they feel the child may be at risk, but we also know there are very little supports for parents with mild learning difficulties, and often the decision to remove their children is based solely on the fact that they have this mild disability. The system seems to be totally stacked against them.”
Inclusion Ireland provided an advocacy service to “one or two” clients involved in childcare proceedings cases each year up to 2009, but last year dealt with nine such cases, and so far this year has had five new referrals.
The National Advocacy Service for People with Disabilities, which provides advocacy services to disabled people, including instances where they are involved in court proceedings, has been operating for just over a month.
A spokeswoman confirmed it was already involved in “a small number of cases” where people with intellectual disabilities were threatened with losing their children.
The Irish Times is aware of one case before the courts, which cannot be detailed for legal reasons, where a couple were assessed at a child and parent assessment centre.
The final assessment report, seen by The Irish Times, says the couple are safety-conscious, aware of hygiene and “competent in their role as parents to x”.
It recommends supports “in the first instance” after they leave the centre, but concludes “given adequate supports, M and P should be able to parent x into the future”.
They are fighting to have their child, taken into foster care some time ago, returned. They were at no stage offered any family support package or parenting advice.
A spokeswoman for the HSE said “all children should be with their parents, except in exceptional circumstances such as when the child is at risk”.
“When this situation occurs the HSE works to support all families equally, regardless of personal circumstances or level of intellect, with the ultimate goal of reunifying the family while protecting the child.”