The number of applications to put children into state care being made in Letterkenny significantly out numbers other similarly sized towns, new figures reveal.
The figures from the courts service show 225 care orders for children were granted in Letterkenny in 2011.
This compares to one in Mullingar for the same year, eight in Killarney, 10 in Athlone, 21 in Castlebar and 23 in Carlow. Letterkenny had marginally more applications granted than Galway and was only exceeded by Dublin, Cork, Limerick and Waterford.
In Donegal town just 27 applications were made with 24 granted while 39 were made in Sligo with 34 granted.
In total there were 7,928 applications made to district courts to put children into State care during 2011. Some 7,410 were granted.
Around four in ten cases were in Dublin, with the next busiest courts in Cork, Waterford, Limerick, Galway and Letterkenny.
The figures, the latest available and never before published, include interim care orders, care orders and supervision orders.
They were released by the Courts Service to the Child Care Law Reporting Project, which has launched a new website detailing child care cases that come before the courts.
The project warned that the number of applications does not reflect the number of families and children under HSE supervision or in HSE care, as there may be multiple applications for the same family or the same child. The kind of orders sought also vary in different parts of the country. In some areas Care Orders are sought for a limited period of time, in others Interim Care Orders are made and then repeatedly renewed, with Care Orders made more rarely and then until the child is 18. Repeat applications may be counted separately, though they relate to essentially the same case, thus showing a large volume of applications.
The project says, however, that the statistics do show which are the busiest child care courts and they have been used to guide the project in allocating time to various courts.
Carol Coulter, director of the project, said she couldn’t yet say why there was such huge differences nationwide but would hope to find out over the next five years. “I noticed there is a lot of variation geographically,” she said. “I will be looking to see why there seems to be far more orders in some places than others.
“Is it because they are being sought? Is it because there is more voluntary care in some parts of the country? We just don’t know.”