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€2.3m: Cost of Care for 15 Youths Abroad

Irish Examiner, June 13, 2011 by Jennifer Hough

Cost of Child Care
€2.3m: Cost of care for 15 youths abroad

MORE than €2.3 million was spent last year on placing 15 troubled young people in special care facilities and private foster care outside the country, with one placement in Scotland costing more than €500,000 a year.

Documents obtained by the Irish Examiner reveal the number of young people sent for care in other countries rose from nine in 2009, at a cost of more than €800,000, to 15 last year.

Among the most extreme and expensive were placements in:

* Boystown, Nebraska in the United States, for specialist therapeutic care at €356,000 annually.

* A placement in Britain for severe attachment disorder at €240,000 annually.

* Secure care in Scotland at a cost of £478,000 (€541,300) annually.

* A specialist therapeutic care placement in Hassela Gotland, Sweden, at a cost of €140,000 annually.

Placements run for anything from 18 months to two years.

There are also a number of private foster care placements outside the state, one with a private foster company in Britain, and two in relative foster care.

The HSE South and Dublin Mid-Leinster regions both accounted for five referrals each, while Dublin North-East had three referrals and the West had placed two young people sent abroad.

The Swedish youth detention facility, Hassela Gotland, is located on a remote island in the middle of the Baltic Sea and in recent years two other Irish children have been sent there for help. At the facility, troubled youths learn to "care for dogs, bake cakes, and get frequent hugs from their social worker ‘family’".

After the murder of teenager Daniel McAnaspie, it emerged that he had been refused a placement in the facility a year before his death.

His solicitor in the Children’s Court, Gareth Noble said Daniel had not been a repeat offender and the placement had been identified as appropriate for him.

Placements in special care units must be sanctioned by the High Court.

Mr Noble, who acts as a defence solicitor for teenagers before the children’s court, said those who are sent to secure care placements outside the jurisdiction are the most extreme cases.

Currently, there are two young Irish people at the Kibble Institute in Scotland.

One boy has spent about half his life in the Irish care system.

The 16-year-old, who appeared at the Children’s Court on several occasions, was bound to the peace last year on the condition that he would take up a placement in the high support institution.

The boy, who has several criminal convictions for robberies, had previously refused an offer to go to Sweden.

This appeared in the printed version of the Irish Examiner Monday, June 13, 2011