Dublin foster care service met just one of 26 national standards
Hiqa data also shows some foster carers not vetted by gardaí despite 2011 guidelines
The Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) report found reviews were not being carried out following serious incidents and complaints. Photograph: Alan Betson
The Dublin South Central foster care service run by Tusla successfully met only one of 26 national standards examined by Hiqa, the Health Information and Quality Authority, last December.
Data provided by the service showed a small number of foster carers had not been vetted by gardaí despite guidelines laid out by the 2011 Children First report.
While inspectors found that on a day-to-day basis, social workers at Dublin South Central “promoted and respected children’s rights” and the vast majority of children had “warm relationships with their foster families”, the review found aftercare services were “under-resourced” and “preparation for leaving care and aftercare plans were of poor quality”.
It said there was no clear explanation for why some siblings were not placed together, while a total of 98 children were sent to placements far from their local community. This had an impact on children having to live significant distances away from their own community, said the report.
Inspectors warned that not all children were being placed with foster carers from their own cultural, ethnic or religious backgrounds and described as “insufficient” measures to ensure children had a positive sense of their identity and that of their families’ beliefs.
The report found reviews were not being carried out following serious incidents and complaints, and that children continued to be placed with foster carers who had been subject to an allegation.
It also found some homes had not been assessed for health and safety for up to 20 years.
Not all young people leaving care in South Dublin Central received aftercare in line with Tusla policy with “significant risks” being identified when bringing foster care assessments to their conclusion, the report found.
Terry Dignan, director of Epic which supports children and young people in care, underlined the fundamental role Garda vetting plays in ensuring children’s long-term safety and well-being.
He said that housing children away from their community only added to the trauma of being placed in foster care and he believed increased efforts should be made to meet the needs of children from minority ethnic backgrounds and religions.
“Keeping children safe is paramount. We trust that Tusla will address the grave issues raised by Hiqa, to ensure that inappropriate placements are dealt with in a timely and appropriate manner, and that vulnerable children are protected from harm.”
ISPCC chief executive Grainia Long expressed her disappointment at the foster care service’s failure to meet the minimum standards for children in care and called on Tusla to assess the provision of child foster services as a matter of urgency.
“It is the right of every child in the care of the state to be protected and as the report demonstrates, improvements are required in Garda vetting and adherence to Children First.”
In a report on the Care Visions fostering service, Hiqa inspectors found child protection reports were not being made to the relevant social work department.
Asked to provide data on past allegations, Care Visions said no children had made allegations against foster carers. However, Hiqa inspectors found four separate concerns of a child protection nature during their review.
Mr Dignan underlined the risk of failing to report allegations made in foster care, saying it would only take one missed issue “to end up with another Grace case”.
“What seems like a relatively innocuous issue can develop into something far more serious.”