Four children removed from foster homes in Louth/Meath area over concerns

Hiqa report outlines nine allegations made against foster carers in past 12 months

Photograph: Alan Betson / The Irish Times

Photograph: Alan Betson / The Irish Times

 

Four children placed into foster homes by Tusla, the child and family agency, were later removed from the homes following reports of child protection or welfare concerns, according to a watchdog’s inspection report.

The Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) conducted an inspection of Tusla’s fostering service in the Louth-Meath service area in August.

At the time of the inspection there were 379 children in foster care in the area, with 84 of these children placed with relatives, and 279 children living with foster carers.

The inspection report outlined nine allegations had been made against foster carers in the area in the past 12 months. Investigations into four cases of serious concern about foster carers were upheld in three cases, with the fourth under appeal.

Four children had been removed from their foster placements as a result of child protection and welfare concerns, Hiqa’s report said.

A further 10 child protection and welfare reports had been made by children in foster care against other individuals.

Inspectors reviewing the records of Tusla’s investigations into these concerns found while social workers had followed child protection guidelines, the inquiries “were not timely.”

In one case an allegation had been made against a foster carer in March 2020, but an initial assessment of the case had not commenced at the time of the inspection.

There had been 24 reports of serious incidents involving children in care that were escalated by the area to Tusla’s national office in the past two years, the Hiqa report said.

The inspection report said the area “focused on the safety of children as a priority,” and there were some examples of good safeguarding practice.

“However, there were some delays in the processing of allegations made by children against both foster carers and other persons,” the report said.

While delays were due to complicated circumstances in some cases, the reason for the delayed response was not clear in others, it said.

“Management oversight and tracking of child protection concerns made by children in care required improvement to ensure they were completed in a timely manner,” the inspection report stated.

The inspection found only five children in care in the Louth-Meath area did not have an allocated social worker.

Hiqa praised how following the onset of the coronavirus pandemic social work staff had been “creative” in maintaining contact with children.

When social workers had been required to conduct home visits, in cases where a foster placement broke down unexpectedly, or where children were taken into care, they took place outdoors where possible.

The Hiqa inspection found the Louth-Meath area to be compliant across three national standards, and substantially compliant in three further standards.