Foster care reports uncover serious absence of vetting

CHILDREN have been placed in foster placements in which carers are alleged to have carried out abuse or in which carers are alleged drug dealers, according to new reports.

The Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) yesterday published foster care inspection reports for three areas in Dublin, uncovering that vulnerable children, some of whom did not even have an assigned social worker, have been placed with foster carers who have not been vetted.

The HIQA report into Dublin North found that, while some improvements needed to be made, there was a good standard of social work practice and of management.

However, serious concerns were raised in the reports on Dublin North Central and, in particular, on Dublin North West, with HIQA claiming that a definitive list of children in care in those areas was only ascertained after it had “followed the money” regarding payments to carers.

The reports found that the HSE was not meeting its statutory responsibilities regarding some of the children in its care, opening the possibility of future legal actions.

One child did not receive a visit from a social worker for 10 years, while a handful of others waited eight years between visits, a situation HIQA chief executive Dr Tracey Cooper described as “completely unacceptable”.

“At the moment there seems to be 32 local health offices and 32 pieces of the jigsaw, which leads to variation of foster care services,” she said, claiming that it is possible a carer found unfit to look after children in one part of the country could be placed in charge of children if they moved elsewhere.

Dr Cooper said there was now a need for a national register and some of the problems affecting areas such as Dublin North West dated back as far as 2004.

Poor file management practices included incorrect names being entered into files and a number of children being included in one file.

HIQA also found poor management and low morale, plus high staff turnover among social workers in Dublin North West and North Central,. And North West has been instructed by HIQA to carry out a systematic review of any allegations regarding children in its care over the past 10 years.

Key managerial positions were also not filled in some areas, while there was also a failure to take decisions at local foster care committee level. HIQA had to comb through 1,100 files in Dublin North West and North Central to determine the actual number of children in the system, as the HSE itself did not know.

In addition to failings at a local level, Dr Cooper said the HSE needed to act on the series of recommendations made regarding each area covered in the reports, adding that services were “disconnected nationally”.

“It does not stop with local health managers,” she said. “Those who are accountable are the board of the HSE, which is delegated through its executive structure.”

She added that, due to the breaches of the HSE’s statutory requirements, “children have been ill harmed”.

She added that indications were that, while there may be deficiencies in other parts of the country, it was unlikely to be at the same level as in Dublin North West or North Central.


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