A local newspaper report has revealed that it is HSE policy to send troubled children out of the country to as far away as the US – for services that they say are not available in Ireland. The report says that children are being held against their will, without physical contact with their families, and have had their passports confiscated.
The Mayo News is reporting this week that five teenagers who had been put into the care of the Health Service Executive are now in the Boys Town camp in Nebraska. The first teen was sent from Roscommon two years ago as part of what the newspaper calls ‘an experiment’; three more may be sent out by the end of May. The paper reports that it is the ordinary policy of the programme to only hold children against their will for a six-month period; after that, they are ordinarily free to leave. However, the passports of the Irish children have been confiscated, and a number of them have been kept against their will for six months, according to the report.
Another issue raised in the report is that it is Boys Town policy to encourage visits between families and children, but Irish parents have been denied access to their children.
The HSE acknowledged that its policy is to send young people abroad sometimes, in a statement to the newspaper:
From time to time the HSE use facilities outside its jurisdiction, including facilities in the UK and USA. These children are under the care of the HSE and are sent under the direction of the court for specialised treatment that is not available in Ireland. There would be regular reviews, care plans and ongoing contact between these facilities and HSE staff.
Kieran McGrath, a child welfare consultant told the Today FM’s evening drivetime programme that there are over 5,000 children in care in Ireland and about ten have been sent out of the country because the services the HSE says they need are not available here.
Of reports that they are being held against their will, Mr McGrath said, “Youngsters always want to go home, it doesn’t matter whether they are far away or near at home, youngsters will always want to go home, regardless of the circumstances.”
The newspaper concludes its report with the following:
In 1778, many Irish children that misbehaved were sent to New Zealand’s Botany Bay. It is astounding that 230 years later, children are still being sent to remote camps in far-flung parts of the world as a solution to their behavioural problems.
We’ve had a query from one of our member groups regarding the exemption from the Irish language. This is an issue that may affect those who are returning to Ireland with school-aged children.
The Department of Education has a document outlining who may be exempted and the procedure for granting an exemption. The part that is applicable to returning emigrant children is as follows:
“ Pupils in the following circumstances may be allowed to substitute any other subject from the list of approved subjects for Irish for the purpose of Rule 21 (1) (a) and (b):-
(a) Pupils whose primary education up to 11 years of age was received in Northern Ireland or outside Ireland;
(b) Pupils who were previously enrolled as recognised pupils in a primary or second-level school who are being re-enrolled after a period spent abroad, provided that at least three years have elapsed since the previous enrolment in the State and the pupil is at least 11 years of age on re-enrolment;
The document gives the procedure for getting an exemption as well, which begins with a parent or guardian submitting a written application to the principal.
The document does note, however, that “[t]he second-level programme in Irish both current and planned has the capacity to cater for a wide diversity of ability”, so it seems to encourage parents to consider whether studying Irish may be suitable for their children.
On a related note, NY-born comedian Des Bishop, recently impressed TV viewers with his attempts to learn Irish for his RTE TV programme, “In the Name of the Fada”. Des came over to Ireland from NY as a teenager and has been making a name for himself as a keen observer of Irish life. He is now touring Ireland with a comedy show in Irish called “Teanga”.