Hiqa report identifies major failings in Cork region’s fostering services

Child protection allegations about foster carers not consistently responded to

Tusla: Cork region is the largest of its 17 service areas. Photograph: Alan Betson / The Irish Times

Tusla: Cork region is the largest of its 17 service areas. Photograph: Alan Betson / The Irish Times

 

A series of major failings have been identified in a report by the health watchdog Hiqa on Tusla’s fostering services in the Cork region.

Fostering services in the region, the largest of Tusla’s 17 service areas, were inspected over four days last February with a focus on the recruitment, assessment, supervision and support of foster carers.

There were 517 foster carer households in the Cork service at the time, of which 377 were general foster carers and 140 relative foster carers who were related to the child in care.

Inspectors found child protection allegations about foster carers were not consistently responded to and there were no formal systems in place to ensure the foster care committees were notified of child protection or welfare concerns.

Appropriate safeguarding arrangements, such as Garda vetting and adequate home visits by link workers, were not in place for all foster workers.

Hiqa found “significant delays” in assessments of relative foster carers “with many children placed for several years with unassessed relative carers” and often with no evidence of adequate safeguarding measures in place.

Only a very small number of children, however (0.5 per cent of all the children in care) were with relative carers who had not been approved by the foster care committee.

The level of support to foster carers “varied and the frequency of home visits was not always sufficient”, though there were “some supports in the community” and monthly support groups were available, according to the report.

“There was an insufficient number and range of foster carers in place to meet the demand for services and more foster carers were leaving the service than were being recruited.”

Welcoming the report, Tusla said while it noted positive aspects of Cork’s fostering services, a number of areas had been highlighted for improvement.

“Tusla has submitted a comprehensive action plan to actively address these areas,” it said in a statement.