Vulnerable children are being looked after by foster carers who have allegations hanging over them, it has been revealed.
Youngsters are also living long-term with unapproved foster parents and carers whose Garda vetting was out-of-date.
The Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) – the State’s health watchdog – said it could not disclose the severity or nature of “upheld” complaints against carers who continue to foster children.
But the authority attacked the Health Service Executive (HSE) for its “lack of urgency” in carrying out investigations into the allegations.
Last year, Hiqa launched inspections of 33 children’s residential centres – for children mostly aged between 12 and 18 years – and eight foster care services, all run by the HSE.
Overall, care was deemed to be good and safe.
But the system was found to be under significant pressure, in some instances putting children at risk.
The investigation found that none of the foster care services fully reached the standards set out for them. More than one in ten were below standard.
Furthermore, there were cases where children were being placed with unapproved foster carers, sometimes for long periods of time.
The investigation by the HSE into allegations against foster carers “was not always timely”, the watchdog found.
The report also found a lack of foster carers in some areas, while staff shortages had impacted on the HSE’s ability to provide a safe high quality fostering service.
Phelim Quinn, director of regulation with Hiqa, said in some cases foster carers were offered very little training in dealing with vulnerable children with extremely challenging behaviour.
“Although recruiting more foster carers will mitigate threats to the stability of foster care placements, ongoing needs assessment of children and young people who are at risk of coming into care should inform any recruitment process,” he said.