Since the turn of the century, 24 children have died after being placed in state care. Daniel McAnaspie is just the latest, tragic victim of a system that consistently fails our most vulnerable children. Not all of their deaths are as brutal and violent as that of 17-year-old Daniel but all left loved ones devastated in their wake.
The 24 children have lost their lives in practically every conceivable unfortunate way. Four young people died from suicide and five from drug overdoses, according to figures released to the Sunday Tribune under the Freedom of Information Act. Two have been killed at the hands of others – Daniel McAnaspie and Melissa Mahon, whose killer Ronnie Dunbar was later convicted of her manslaughter.
One child died from heart problems relating to Down Syndrome, another from cancer, two from leukaemia and one from an asthma attack while asleep. One child died from the complications relating to a severe disability, another young person died from a brain tumour, and another died during an operation. One young person was killed in a hit-and-run accident and another had a brain seizure.
In 2008, two children in the care of the state died, one from leukaemia. The HSE refused to provide details of the circumstances of the second death. It said a "critical incident review" was carried out following the child's death and that the forthcoming inquest should provide some answers about how the child died. Several children who died from overdoses in recent years were in emergency care. Social workers have voiced concerns that the system is failing vulnerable young people.
The deaths of certain children in care have been fully investigated. They include Kim O'Donovan (15) who was found dead at a city-centre B&B from a suspected drug overdose; David Foley (17), who died from an overdose three years after he voluntarily sought care from the state; and Tracey Fay (18), who was found dead after injecting herself in 2002. All had sought more support from health authorities. Summarised and heavily-edited reports into the HSE's handling of the cases of David Foley and Tracey Fay were published in April.
The HSE has said that Daniel McAnaspie's death will be reviewed, in accordance with recently published guidelines, to ensure that lessons can be learnt from "this tragic event". But this is not enough for his grieving family. They want a prompt and fully independent inquiry that they hope will bring about changes to prevent other deaths in state care.
From Dungarvan, Co Waterford, the teenager died in January 2007 after inhaling some of the contents of a deodorant can. The HSE had been warned more than a year previously that the girl's life was in danger unless she was placed in residential care.
The HSE has asked Dr Harry Ferguson, professor in social policy and social work at the University of the West of England in Bristol, to undertake an external review in this case.
She was just four days short of her 16th birthday when she was found dead from a heroin overdose in a Dublin bed and breakfast on 24 August, 2000.
It emerged afterwards that there had been a litany of failures in her care. In April 1998, on foot of a High Court order from Justice Peter Kelly, she was placed in Newtown House, a secure high-support facility in Co Wicklow.
Days later she wrote him a letter saying she felt "totally alone and helpless" and asked for more help. She had asked to be sent back to St John of Gods but she never got a reply to her letter because staff at Newtown House did not pass her letter to the judge. A subsequent report was highly critical of the quality of care provided to the children in Newtown House. It was one of the factors that led to its closure.
Danny Talbot (19) died in summer 2009 from a suspected drugs overdose. He spent most of his life in the care system and was in receipt of aftercare from the HSE when he died.
While he was placed in foster care after the death of his father at the age of nine, his behaviour began to deteriorate. He ended up in numerous emergency care placements, including out-of-hours hostels for homeless young people.
The teenager was killed in 2006 by Sligo man Ronnie Dunbar while she was in HSE care. He was found guilty of her manslaughter in May 2009. Dunbar is currently serving a life sentence. A court heard the vulnerable teenager was strangled in Rathbraughan Park, a few hundred yards from her residential care home. She had become "infatuated" with Dunbar, who was a type of "father figure".
After Dunbar was convicted, his eldest daughter Shirley asked: "Why did the HSE put Melissa into accommodation which is only a few streets away from where he lives and where he had access to her?" The teenager was placed in HSE care after allegations that she had been physically abused by a relative. Melissa's mother Mary Mahon has called for the publication of the HSE review into her daughter's death. "Melissa was badly let down by the HSE and that is the bottom line."
David Foley died of a drugs overdose in 2005, three years after being admitted into the care system. He had voluntarily sought care at the age of 14 and ended up being admitted into a series of emergency hostels for homeless teens in Dublin's city centre. Professionals familiar with his case say he should have received more suitable forms of care, such as family support, which could have allowed him to live at home or in his community.
The Dublin girl died of a drugs overdose in January 2002. She had suffered serious physical and emotional abuse at the hands of her mother and her mother's partner. The HSE asked independent expert Michael Bruton to draw up the report into the circumstances surrounding Tracey Fay's death. The report was later published by Fine Gael TD Alan Shatter.
It is strongly critical of the health authorities for their "chaotic" provision of care services and highlights the many "missed opportunities" when the state should have intervened in Tracey's lifetime. It includes 47 recommendations on how to improve child-protection services here.