Dáil Éireann - Volume 352 - 28 June, 1984

Written Answers. - Mother and Baby Homes.

415. Mr. Gregory-Independent asked the Minister for Health if he will outline the number of infants and children resident in each of the mother and baby homes in the country where their mother is no longer resident and in the case of each child if he will give details of the child's age and length of stay.

Minister for Health (Mr. B. Desmond): The information requested is set out in the table below:

Name of Home

No. of Children Resident Without Mother

Age

Length of Stay

Denny House, 83 Eglington Road, Dublin 4.

0

St. Patrick's Navan Road, Dublin 7.

9

2 are 3 months old

1 is 4 years old

2 are 5 years old

2 are 6 years old

1 is 7 years old

1 is 10 years old

All children resident from birth

Ard Mhuire, Dunboyne, Co. Meath.

0

Sacred Heart Home, Bessborough.

24

4 are less than 1 month old

6 are less than 2 months old

Resident from birth

Resident from birth

Sacred Heart Home, Bessborough.

24

4 are two months old

3 are 3 months old

1 is 4 months old

1 is 5 months old

3 are 2½ years old

Resident from birth

Resident from birth

Resident from birth

Resident from birth

Of these three children, one is resident for 2 months, one for 3 months and one for 5 months.

1 is 3 years old

Resident for 8 months.

1 is 4½ years old

Resident for 8 months.

416. Mr. Gregory-Independent asked the Minister for Health his view on the appropriateness of accommodation for individual infants or children in mother and baby home accommodation, in the light of professional thinking and previous Ministerial circulars favouring foster family care for such children; and the measures he proposes on this matter.

Minister for Health (Mr. B. Desmond): The main thrust of child care policy in recent years has been to move away from institutional care and to promote and develop fostering, adoption and other community-based services such as family case work and day care.

Nowadays only two mother and baby homes retain babies for any appreciable length of time, St. Patrick's, Navan Road, Dublin 7, and the Sacred Heart Home, Bessborough, Cork. Policy of both these homes is to care for infants for a short period after birth to give mothers an opportunity to decide on the future course of action which would be in their children's best interests. The Sacred Heart Home also provides short-term accommodation for older children, of whom there are currently five in residence, whose mothers have just given birth to a second child. St. Patrick's provide accommodation for seven severely handicapped children who have been resident [1258] there since birth. These are children for whom care in the community is not possible, so severe are their disabilities, and for whom institutional care is the only option.

I can assure the Deputy that policy will continue to be based on the principle that care in a family setting is the most desirable arrangement for children who, for whatever reason, cannot reside with their natural family. However, there are obviously cases where fostering is not appropriate either because of the particular needs of the child or unavailability at the time of suitable foster parents. In such cases the only alternative is some form of residential care. For this reason health boards while acknowledging fostering as the preferable option, will continue to support residential services, including mother and baby homes, at a level sufficient to ensure availability of care, at all times, even at short notice, for children unable to reside in their own homes.