Social services unable to guarantee safe foster care

Hiqa report finds vulnerable children going without visits from professionals

Gordon Jeyes, Chief Executive of Tusla- Child and Family Agency and Suzanne O’Brien who spent time in foster care. Inspectors have found a number of foster care households had not had visits from professionals to check if children’s needs were being addressed. Photograph: Alan Betson / The Irish Times

Gordon Jeyes, Chief Executive of Tusla- Child and Family Agency and Suzanne O’Brien who spent time in foster care. Inspectors have found a number of foster care households had not had visits from professionals to check if children’s needs were being addressed. Photograph: Alan Betson / The Irish Times

 

Social services were unable to guarantee a safe and effective service was being delivered to children in foster care in parts of the State, an inspection report has found.

The Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) found up to a fifth of children in foster care in parts of Dublin, Kildare and Wicklow did not have a social worker.

In addition, inspectors found a number of foster care households had not had any visits from professionals to check if children were safe and their needs were being addressed.

There were not enough foster carers in the area and assessments had not been undertaken in a timely manner.

Hiqa inspectors identified a “significant risk” where a small number of foster carers had children placed with them since 2012, but no assessment had started.

Some allegations of mistreatment against foster carers were not investigated in a timely manner. For example, the garda had not been alerted to concerns in one case.

Overall, out of the 19 standards the services were measured against, Hiqa found that foster care services in the Dublin southwest, Kildare and west Wicklow area met just two of them fully.

Responding to the findings, the Child and Family Agency’s head of operations Mary Hargaden said the report has also found that outcomes for many of the children were positive in the context of limited resources

She said there have been many improvements since the inspection such as an increase in staffing and more regular visits to children, in line with statutory requirements.

Ms Hargaden said outstanding care plans have since been prioritised and outstanding assessments for relative foster carers will be completed.

Of the 429 children in foster care at the time of the inspection, the Hiqa report shows that:

- 26 per cent (111) children did not have an allocated social worker.

- 62 per cent (192) of foster carers had not had a review for more than three years, contrary to regulatory requirements

- 46 relative foster carers were caring for children who had not yet been approved by the foster care committee

The authority inspected services last June and July and has provided an action plan to the Child and Family Agency to ensure the identified failings are addressed.