Foster care systems ‘not robust’

A foster carer was not informed of a complaint made against them, while separately 79 foster carers in the south-east had not had a review for more than three years.

The findings are contained in a new Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) inspection report on Tusla foster care services in the Wexford Waterford service area, echoing some of the conclusions from a broader report by the health watchdog into how Tusla, the child and Family agency, deals with retrospective allegations of abuse.

That report criticised the standard of overall record keeping and communication when it came to allegations or complaints.

The report into foster care services in the south-east found that the system of recording and tracking complaints, allegations, and concerns was “not robust” and that not all allegations and concerns were correctly classified or identified by the foster care service.

At the time of the Hiqa inspection, the Wexford Waterford service area had 306 foster carer households. The report found that of the eight national standards assessed one standard was compliant, two were substantially compliant, four were moderately non-compliant, and one standard was majorly non-compliant.

There were 13 child protection concerns or allegations against foster carers in the 12 months prior to the inspection and inspectors reviewed a total of 11 allegations in detail.

Two allegations were not managed and investigated in line with Children First or in line with the interim national policy and procedure for responding to allegations of child abuse and neglect against foster carers. One of those allegations was not categorised in any complaints or allegation log.

Actions were taken to assess the allegation, but the foster carers were not informed of the allegation and a notice of the allegation was not completed and sent to the appropriate stakeholders.

There were also issues with Garda vetting of foster carers.

Twelve young adults in foster care households had not been Garda vetted, and Garda vetting was not updated for all foster carers within the required timeframe.

The systems to ensure timely applications and receipt of updated vetting for foster carers were not efficient.

There was evidence of good practice in the area, including comprehensive assessments of prospective foster carers. However, there were also delays in the completion of assessments for both relative and general foster carers and five relative foster carers were unassessed and with children placed at the time of the inspection.

There were also delays in the allocation of link social workers to these families of between three and six months.

Among the reasons for the major non-compliance was significant delays in convening foster care reviews in the area.

Inspectors reviewed 11 statutory reviews which took place in the previous 12 months and in one of those cases there had been 11 years between reviews.

A number of foster carers did not have up-to-date reviews. A total of 79 foster care households had not had a review for more than three years.

Tusla locally provided an action plan response, with implementation timelines, to address the non-compliances identified on inspection.

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