Two hundred and thirty-six children have been reported missing from the care of Tusla, the Child and Family Agency (CFA) agency this year.
In new figures provided by the Minister for Children, Roderic O’Gorman, the 236 children reported missing for the first eight months of this year compare to 295 for the 12 months of 2021, 319 reported missing in 2020 and 366 in 2019.
In a written Dáil reply to Mark Ward TD, Mr O’Gorman stated that in all cases, the children were returned to the care of Tusla.
Mr O’Gorman stated that the figures relate to children placed in residential care by Tusla across all care settings including statutory, voluntary, private and special care.
He said that the figures refer to incidents where a child is missing for a period of 20 minutes or longer.
He said that generally most of the incidents/reports are for children missing for less than 24 hours.
In his reply, Mr O’Gorman said that children reported missing from care “are recognised as being among the most vulnerable in society”.
He said: “Tusla along with An Garda Síochána work together on such cases through a Joint Protocol where children can be listed as missing from care after a certain period if there is a concern about their safety, well-being, or if there is a risk present.”
He added: “The joint protocol sets out how social workers and social care workers should make a report of a missing child in care; when and how information about the child may be released to the public if the child is not located, and arrangements for the return of the child to care when they are found.”
He stated that “the gardaí have primary responsibility for investigating once a child is reported missing and throughout the Garda investigation, Tusla staff and carers maintain regular contact with the gardaí, pass on all relevant information and assist in the safe return of the child”.
Mr O’Gorman stated that Tusla has advised that “most of the children and young people reported missing return to their placement after a brief period of time and remain in a safe and caring environment”.