A young Catholic boy is warning of the risks of drinking and driving while he is in Ireland’s care.
The child, who cannot be named for legal reasons, is now 17 years old and is a pupil at St Peter’s Church of Ireland in the Dublin suburb of Kildare.
“We need to be clear about what is expected of us in the care of the State,” the boy told The Irish Press.
The boy is being taken on a short-term stay at the parish by the Catholic Diocese of Cork and will have his own home while he waits for a permanent solution.
The teenager was brought to the church from a foster home where he had been adopted.
His foster mother, who has since been discharged, told the Irish Independent that he had spent a number of nights in the home, including one night in a separate room where he was forced to play with a toy which he said was “too big for him”.
The foster mother said the boy had “absolutely no social skills”.
“It’s hard to describe what he’s going through,” she said.
The foster father, who is now in a different foster home, did not want to be named, but said that he “absolutely” did not see what the boy was referring to.
“It was a very emotional moment for him and I don’t know if he realised how much it was affecting him at the time,” he said.
He said that while he did not agree with the use of the term “drunkenness” in the case of the boy, he did “not have any issue with the children being put in a foster environment”.
He said he had a “very strong” view that the child was in “danger” and that he was “extremely worried”.
He added that the boy “wanted to go back home”.
“He’s a very, very brave young man,” the father said.
A spokesperson for the Catholic diocese of Ireland, which is responsible for the boy’s care, said that in the course of his stay, he had received a number from the Department of Health about the need to monitor the health of the children and to report any problems to them.
“He has been seen in the past and he is very careful,” she told the Independent.
“He’s been checked over by the medical staff, he’s been monitored in his school and he has been in a regular foster home.”
A Department of Education spokesperson said the Department was aware of the situation and that the Department is aware of a number that have been referred to them as of last month.
“The Department is in close contact with the parents and the Department has made the children’s health a priority,” they said.
“Our focus at this stage is to find a permanent placement for the child, but the Department does not want the children to be in foster care.”
This will only happen if the parents agree that the children will remain in a home with them.
The spokesperson added that if the child does not return to the Catholic parish he will remain with a foster parent.
“As with all children in care, they will be monitored by a specialist social worker who is part of a team that will assess the child’s health and wellbeing and determine if the best course of action is to place them in the foster home,” they added.
“If this is the case, we will consider any options that are available to us.”
Dr David Coates, from the Catholic Association of Ireland (CAI), told The Independent that the issue of child safety was not new and was an issue that had been discussed in the Irish society for a number years.
“These issues have been around for a long time,” Dr Coates said.
“This is an area that has come to the fore in recent years, and I think there’s been a significant increase in the amount of information being shared about alcohol and driving in recent times.”
He said it was a “huge concern” that the government was not taking any action.
“There is an awareness, and it’s a problem that’s been discussed for quite a while now, that it’s probably not an appropriate place to place children,” he told The International Business Times.
Dr Coates believes that there is no single solution to the issue, but that a number are needed.
“I think we need a number where people can come together to think about it,” he explained.
“If we don’t have a way to put these children in foster homes, it’s going to be difficult to work out what is the best way forward.”
But we’re seeing a number in foster home settings where we have children who are not in foster and the problem is not getting better.
We’re not getting the support that we need to get to a point where the problem stops.
“The Government has been criticised by many over its handling of alcohol in the country.
In 2014, a number 30% of Irish children aged under 15 admitted to binge drinking, which the Government described as a problem in the society.