By Michael Sandstrom
Tusla’s General manager defended the child and family support agency over recent controversies at the New Communities Partnership (NCP) conference in Dublin Castle on 30 March.
Eifon Williams said he “strongly refutes” the “terrible” claims by social workers with Tusla, who came forward with allegations that the agency was “hell bent” on taking ethnic minority children into care for “trivial reasons”, as reported recently in Metro Éireann.
Tusla “actively monitors the [ethnicity of] children that come into care … so if there is a higher prevalence of a certain minority group we address that,” said Williams, who emphasised that children are only removed from the family home “if the courts are satisfied”.
Improving outcomes for migrant families and solutions to avoid taking children into care were the focus of the NCP conference in Dublin Castle.
Daniela Jarj of NCP’s Migrant Family Support Service said the partnership has helped to avoid children being removed from their families in 30 out of 133 cases.
To increase this success rate, Jarj wants to raise awareness of resources such as NCP’s own services, as well as Tusla’s parenting website, all of which provide information on parenting norms in Ireland.
Such “cultural understanding” is the way forward in giving support to migrant children and families in need, said NCP chief executive Anca Lupu, who added that child protection policy is “a two-way street; it is not only what migrant families can do but also what service providers can do.”
Jarj stressed the importance of parents having the confidence to seek help from support services like NCP.
“[For example] if the child is struggling with speech difficulties [then parents can] go to organisations supporting migrants to point them in the right direction … or engage with the local social workers.”
Migrants and people from ethnic backgrounds are also encouraged to get involved as social care workers or foster parents, to make up for a shortfall of suitable foster families among Ireland’s ethnic minority communities.