Tusla has acknowledged that child protective services failed to keep safe three children who were raped while in foster care in Galway.
Three girls were repeatedly raped by Keith Burke while in the foster care of his parents in Dunmore between 2003 and 2007.
The case was brought to public attention by RTÉ Investigates in 2016 when multiple women came forward to accuse Burke of sexually abusing them.
Last year Keith Burke, who was a teenager at the time of these crimes, was sentenced to seven and half years in prison, having only admitted his guilt after the trial at the sentencing hearing.
Tusla, the Child and Family Protection Agency, referred the case to the National Review Panel established in the aftermath of the clerical sexual abuse scandal.
The panel’s report, which has yet to be published, is reportedly scathing of both the HSE and Tusla.
It says that there were “systemic flaws in management” in the handling of this case according to RTÉ Investigates, which has seen its contents.
The 22-page report reportedly says that serious inaction by child protection services contributed to the abuse these three children suffered in foster care.
The review panel said that assessment of the Burke’s suitability for foster placement was brief and lacked detail RTÉ reports.
It also said that no consideration was given to the implications of placing three girls with growing boys.
When the first accusations were made of sexual abuse by Keith Burke, no move was made to remove the remaining girls from foster care at the Burkes despite the accusation being deemed “credible” and backed by a pediatrician who examined the girl.
A file was sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions at the time, but no prosecution was brought forward at the time.
Instead a “safety plan” was put in place that said the foster parents were to ensure their son had no unsupervised contact with the other children.
However the report says that this plan was ineffective due to the parent’s refusal to believe the allegations against their son, and by a lack of follow up visits by social workers.
It does however acknowledge that the abuse apparently stopped after the first disclosures, and that at the time child protective services were extremely understaffed and overworked.
In a response to the coverage of this report today, Tusla has issued a statement saying that it fully accepts the findings and recommendations of the NRP and is working to address the finding it raised.
“We are very mindful of the devastating impact on the victims in this case and the effect that this has had on them, and their families.
“We now know that the decisions made in 2007 and 2011 were not robust enough to keep the children safe.”
“However it is important to highlight that this report reflects a certain point in time, prior to the establishment of Tusla which has resulted in an improvement in standards, staffing and services.”
Foster care system improvement.
Tusla has said that in the time since then social workers have been actively working with the young people involved where that is their wish, and will continue to do so.
“Throughout our work, Tusla strives to protect children and keep them safe from harm,” the child protection agency said.
“Currently, foster care placements are subject to a number of safeguards including on-going Garda vetting for foster carers and adult family members, regular visits to the household from children’s social workers and foster carers’ social workers, and inspections of fostering services by HIQA and in depth aftercare supports.”
“When an allegation of abuse is made, Tusla takes immediate action to protect any child or children who may be at immediate risk.”
“Currently all serious concerns and allegations in foster care are managed in line with Tusla’s operational guidance for staff. Our actions are always informed by the best interests and safety of the children involved.”