In a separate submission replying to O’Flaherty’s report, the Manager of St Joseph’s Residential Home in Lower Salthill, Br DE Drohan, made the following observations on the reasons why the children were in residential care: The family structures and environment from which these children come from cannot supply the physical, emotional and psychological needs of the child. Most of the parents are very inadequate. Relationships between the parents are shallow and in some cases they are only co-existing. The relationship between the children and the parents before coming into residential care was often shallow and of little therapeutic value. This should have been very clear to Mr. Flaherty. We fail to see why it was necessary to ask this question. We can state that the group residential setting has helped improve the child/parent relationship. It is true that if long term case work backed up with in-depth social services had been given to these families there is the possibility that some of the children would not have come into residential care. But the hard fact must be faced that many of these parents are so damaged psychologically that they cannot give their children the love, concern, security and support that they need....We agree that every effort must be made to maintain the contact between the child and his parents. The parents should be allowed to visit the child frequently in the residential setting. Also the child should be allowed to visit his natural family frequently. The decision for this must rest with the professional child care worker after consulting other interested agencies. Serious ‘Stress’ can be put on the child who visits a home where the parents are suffering from psychiatric problems or where there are alcoholic parents / or a parent. This ‘stress’ can cause much disturbance to the child and retard the residential group home therapeutic programme. This is a point often missed by social workers.240
Fr Comiskey passed the correspondence on to the Chairman of the Resident Managers Association, Br Dermot Drohan, who stated that he had ‘a good look at it and I honestly cannot disagree with any of the terms laid out in the report. To me it is simply asking us to sit up and have a good look at ourselves.’ Two meetings were held by the Resident Managers in Dublin at Goldenbridge on 13th and 21st June 1978 to discuss the implications of the review. Fr McGonagle in his covering letter highlighted that: During our two meetings there was much soul searching and a strong endeavour to face up to the demands daily arising in an ever-changing situation from the social point of view and attitudes towards Church involvement and Religious participation in our own particular field of caring. There was also present a very strong preparedness to accept that things are not going to get any easier for us in the future but hopefully a better service would evolve to the benefit of all – children in care, care-workers, management.
1979 was designated International Year of the Child by the United Nations General Assembly and a national steering committee was established in June 1978. The Association of Workers with Children in Care (AWCC) organised a conference in Trinity College Dublin to mark the event. Organised by the AWCC and FICE – the International Federation of Educative Communities and chaired by Br DE Drohan, the conference was entitled ‘The Right to be Brought Up in a Spirit of Peace and Universal Brotherhood’. On 24th June 1978, Br TL Furlong, the National Chair of the AWCC wrote to the Taoiseach, Mr Lynch, inviting him to both open and close the conference. He outlined that 1979 was designated International Year of the Child and stated: The Irish Association of Workers with Children in Care, to mark this historic occasion are organising, in conjunction with the international child care organisation FICE an international conference in Dublin from 2nd July to 6th July 1979. The fact that Dublin has been chosen for this unique conference is a tribute to the high standard of child care in Ireland and is also a great honour.