A DISTRAUGHT local family feel utterly “let down” by social care services as they desperately try to protect their 17-year-old daughter, who has attempted to take her own life on five occasions.
“We are just waiting for a phone call to tell us she’s dead,” her granddad admitted to The Nationalist. “She’s the best girl in the world. To talk to her, she’s such a brilliant girl but she has this urge for drugs and we just can’t stop her,” he added.
The girl’s latest suicide attempt took place at the weekend, leaving her family heartbroken that more isn’t being done to save their little girl. The Co Carlow family wish to remain anonymous but feel compelled to highlight the agony they and other families endure as they try to get the right supports for their troubled loved ones.
“We feel totally let down by the social services. She needs to be put somewhere safe, some place she can get the help she needs, but there’s nowhere like that. There’s nowhere she can be cared for,” said her granddad.
The family’s heartbreak began four years ago, when the teenage girl got involved in drugs and mixing with an older crowd of known drug users. Her addiction led to huge tension within the home and ultimately led to violent rows with her mother.
“She broke up the house, and her mother − my daughter − just couldn’t take care of her anymore because she has a younger child in the house, too, and she just had to protect him from all this,” said the grandfather.
The child and family agency Tusla got involved in her case and over the past four years has worked with the family to find a solution to their crisis. The girl came to the attention of local gardaí and also changed schools a number of times.
“She regularly broke up the house at home and then she came to stay with us, then her uncle, then her aunt … we all tried to help but she broke up the house there, too,” he explained.
The Carlow teenager also stayed in a number of foster homes during this period but, according to her grandfather, these too have been unsuccessful. “She’s able to go to these places and then be allowed come and go as she pleases. But that doesn’t work because she’s gone and doesn’t come back. The last place she walked out after only a week,” he said.
The family want their daughter to be placed in a secure, supportive unit, where she can get the help she needs and the support to face her problems.
“No-one is taking care of her – it’s ridiculous. One of the social workers admitted to me that she’d lose her job if she complained about how the system just isn’t working,” he said.
The family have been left particularly worried following an incident where days passed and they had no idea of the young girl’s whereabouts. At the end of March it’s understood that gardaí stopped a car involved in suspicious activity in the Carlow area and found the teenage girl was a passenger in the car. Due to her age, the teenager was detained at a local garda station. She was released some hours later into the care of a social worker.
“The social worker drove her to Carlow town and then left her off at a house that her mother wouldn’t be too happy with,” explained her grandfather.
Following this, the family endured a number of days when they had no idea where the teenage girl was and were terrified that their next phone call could be tragic news.
“She’s in a really, really bad place. She’s told social workers that she’d be better off dead. Five times she has tried to take her own life … we are so scared for the girl,” her grandfather pleaded.
“It’s crazy that nothing can be done for the girl, but social workers don’t want anything to do with us. She’s 18 in June and I’d say it can’t come quick enough for them,” he said.