Many chil­dren in de­ten­tion hit by loss and ne­glect

Irish Examiner - - News - Cor­mac O’Ke­effe

More than a third of chil­dren in de­ten­tion do not have at least one par­ent in their lives, ac­cord­ing to new re­search.

A fifth are con­sid­ered to be at risk of abuse or ne­glect prior to be­ing sent to the Ober­stown Chil­dren De­ten­tion Cam­pus and there are self-harm con­cerns in­volv­ing nearly a quar­ter of the chil­dren.

More than a fifth of those at the cen­tre, lo­cated in Lusk, north Co Dublin, are mem­bers of the Trav­el­ling com­mu­nity.

Ober­stown is the na­tional fa­cil­ity for chil­dren aged 1218 who have been sen­tenced in re­la­tion to a crim­i­nal of­fence or who are in cus­tody await­ing trial.

A snapshot re­port from quar­ter one 2018 shows there are 92 young peo­ple in the cen­tre — 52 on de­ten­tion and 40 on re­mand.

Al­most half of them were in for theft and fraud of­fences, many with mul­ti­ple of­fences. Some 28 chil­dren (30%) had as­sault (in­clud­ing sex­ual as­sault) of­fences.

Three out of 10 chil­dren (28) came from Dublin, while 15 came from Cork, fol­lowed by Meath (7) and Limerick (6). Of the 92 chil­dren, four were aged 13 on en­ter­ing, 11 were aged 14, and 31 were aged 15.

The re­port shows:

52% have a men­tal health need – and al­most half of those have a cur­rent or past di­ag­no­sis of ADHD;

49% are not en­gaged in education be­fore­hand; 20% of the chil­dren have a di­ag­nosed learn­ing dif­fi­culty;

72% are con­sid­ered to have a sub­stance mis­use prob­lems;

47% demon­strate chal­leng­ing be­hav­iour

Lena Ti­money, deputy di­rec­tor of care ser­vices in Ober­stown, said: “The data we are pub­lish­ing out­lines the sig­nif­i­cant chal­lenge in as­sist­ing young peo­ple who have com­plex needs and risks, and it will help in­form ser­vices and in­ter­ven­tions.”

The re­search shows 36% of the chil­dren have suf­fered the loss of one or both par­ents, ei­ther through death, im­pris­on­ment or no longterm con­tact. Fur­ther­more, 40% of the chil­dren are ei­ther in care or have sig­nif­i­cant in­volve­ment with Tusla, the Child and Fam­ily Agency.

Of the 26 chil­dren in care prior to de­ten­tion, half of them had been in three or more place­ments and the bulk of them had men­tal health needs.

The re­port said a fifth of all 92 chil­dren are con­sid­ered to be at risk of abuse or ne­glect prior to de­ten­tion — al­most half of these at the hands of their own fam­ily.

It said there are con­cerns about self-harm in re­spect of 21 chil­dren (23%), and that most of these also have sub­stance mis­use con­cerns.

The chair­woman of Ober­stown board, Ur­sula Kilkelly, said: “What emerges from this data is a pic­ture of sig­nif­i­cant ad­ver­sity and com­plex need among young peo­ple in de­ten­tion, which of­ten re­quires a multi-agency re­sponse.”

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