Tusla, the children and families agency, has apologized to a woman for incorrectly labeling her as a victim of “extraordinary” childhood sexual abuse as part of a custody investigation.
The woman had formally complained that the 2019 allegation was not based on evidence and was causing her great stress and distress.
After an internal review, Tusla admitted there was no evidence in the woman’s records to support such a statement.
She has received a formal apology and Tusla has committed to reminding staff of the obligation to keep accurate records.
Using the pseudonym Rose-Ann, the woman told the Irish Times in 2021 that she had been violently sexually assaulted by her brother six years earlier, which had caused her great psychological distress.
After the attack, which a judge later described as “one of the worst I have ever dealt with”, her weight dropped to 2.7kg and she struggled to care for her children.
Her brother, who pleaded guilty to aggravated sexual assault and attempted rape, was sentenced to 12 years in prison.
Two years after the attack, Tusla placed Rose-Ann’s four children in foster care because of concerns about neglect and abuse in the family home she shared with her then-partner.
Rose-Ann claims Tusla should have done more to help her retain custody of her children and that she was doing much better at the time of her dismissal.
“I experienced something traumatic that the agency used against me,” she said.
Rose-Ann spent the next few years trying to regain custody of her children and lodged numerous Freedom of Information requests with Tusla seeking information about her case.
In response to an inquiry, she received a social worker’s report which said Rose-Ann’s behavior was the result of “the extraordinary sexual abuse she experienced as a child”.
Further investigation into Rose-Ann uncovered a heavily redacted social work document dating back almost 30 years detailing a third party’s claim that she was a victim of child sexual abuse when she was three or four years old.
The documents say there was a single allegation of abuse, but that it was completely withdrawn a short time later. The accuser retracted the claim and told authorities that “nothing happened.” The investigation and file were subsequently closed and no abuse was found.
Rose-Ann told The Irish Times last week she believed the original allegation of child sexual abuse was against her late father, although he was not named in the unredacted parts of the report she received. She said she wanted to clear his name now.
In the September 2023 apology letter, a senior Tusla official said the social worker who sexually abused Rose-Ann was no longer employed by the agency “and it is therefore not possible to discuss the complaint with them”.
The investigation concluded that “there was no evidence to support the social worker’s recorded statement.”
The senior official wrote: “I can only formally apologize on behalf of Tusla… for the inaccurate records and the upset and stress this has caused you.”