The Department of Health were also giving active consideration to the future of residential child welfare in Ireland, in particular their responsibilities under the Children Acts and sections 55 and 56 of the Health Act 1953.148 On 23rd September 1968, Mr O’Rourke in the Department of Health wrote a memo addressed to Miss Murray149 and Miss Clandillon, the Lady Inspectors of Boarded-out Children. The memo argued that the Department of Health: should, at this stage, review the services, dealt with in this division, which are provided for children who come within the scope of the Children Acts and the relevant provisions of the 1953 Act. What I have in mind is that we should consider the adequacy and inadequacies of the services provided for boarded-out children, those placed in approved schools and those who are at nurse; that we should aim at suggesting improvements which might be made in the existing services or innovations which are required to meet needs that at present are unfulfilled; consider the type of service which will be developing during the next decade or so and which will have to be organised within the framework of the regional service envisaged in the White Paper; consider, in particular, in the context of those regional arrangements, the type of case work which will need to be done at local level and the appropriate nature of the regional and departmental supervision which such services will need and, finally, study the services for which we, in this Department, have responsibility in the context of the total services required by the deprived child in general.
Both Miss Murray and Miss Clandillon provided detailed written responses to the memo and these provide a snapshot of thinking in the Department of Health on the cusp of substantial changes in child welfare in Ireland. Responding to the query as to why the numbers of boarded–out children had declined over the previous decade, Miss Murray attributed it to introduction of legal adoption, the continuing emigration of unmarried mothers, and most importantly, the: lack of interest in, or, in some cases, the positive antagonism to the scheme on the part of many health authorities and/or their officials. In Counties Louth and Sligo for example the boarding out scheme is almost non-existent while in some other areas it is barely tolerated. Boarding-out is the Cinderella of the local authority services and there is little informed opinion on the subject at a local level. The emphasis now is on legal adoption which was welcomed by the local authorities for the wrong reasons, viz. as a means of avoiding financial and supervisory responsibility for illegitimate children, and health authority officials have been known to put pressure on unmarried mothers to allow their children to be placed for adoption, even to the extent of refusing any alternative help.150