One in five emergency care orders are for babies under 12 months, Tusla figures show

Tusla, the Child and Family Agency (CFA) obtained more emergency care orders (ECOs) for babies aged less than 12 months old than for any other age category amongst children in 2017.

That is according to new figures from Tusla which show that in 2017, it obtained 150 ECOs for children at risk under the age of 18 nationwide.

The detailed breakdown of the figures provided in response to a Freedom of Information request show by age of the 150 ECOs obtained, 30 - or 20% of the total were obtained by Tusla in the courts for children aged less than one-year-old.

The highest number of ECOs across all age categories amongst children were obtained in Cork and the Midwest in 2017 - with the numbers of ECOs in those areas outstripping the number of ECOs obtained in Dublin.

The figures show that 39 ECOs were obtained for children up to 18 years of age in Cork city and county with the Midwest made up of Limerick, Clare and North Tipperary totalling 27.

The comparatively high numbers for Cork and Limerick compare to 20 for Dublin the same period.

Other areas to record double figures include Louth Meath (14), Carlow/Kilkenny-South Tipperary (13), Donegal (10) and Midlands (10).

Some areas had recorded no emergency care orders for children in 2017 including Galway/Roscommon, Mayo and Dublin South-East/Wicklow.

The figures show that children aged under five accounted for 55% of 76 emergency care orders made in 2017 - the latest annual figures that are available.

The detailed breakdown shows that along with the 30 emergency care orders for babies under 12 months, 13 were obtained for one-year-olds, 12 for two-year-olds, 11 for three-year-olds and 10 for four-year-olds.

CEO of Barnardos, Suzanne Connolly said on Monday: “In our experience, Tusla does not apply for, and the court does not grant, an Emergency Care Order (ECO) without justifiable reason to be concerned about the child’s welfare and protection.

She said: “Factors taken into account when making such a decision are based around a real concern about the safety and welfare of a child. This can include parental issues with chronic addiction, chaotic lifestyle and serious mental health difficulties.

Ms Connolly added: “The first 12 months of a child’s life is a particularly vulnerable time in terms of both of physical and psychological development and the decision to implement an Emergency Care Order (ECO) is not taken lightly either by Tusla or the Courts.

Ms Connolly said: “Barnardos provides family support services to parents referred by Tusla who are experiencing some of the issues outlined. We work with parents and Tusla social workers to ensure the safe return of children to their parents care where possible.”

On the high numbers of ECOs in Cork and the Midwest, Ms Connolly said: “Our view is that the high number of ECOs in Cork and the Midwest is likely to reflect the high level of child protection needs and welfare of the children being referred to Tusla.”

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