The Child and Family Agency has pledged to address serious shortcomings highlighted in an inspection report into its foster care services in Cork, including the recruitment and retention of foster carers and an audit of foster carers’ supervision.
Tusla made the commitment after the publication of the inspection report by the Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa), which listed numerous concerns about the foster service in the area, including insufficient numbers of carers and fears children could be placed with a carer already facing an allegation of abuse.
In one case highlighted in the inspection report, a fourth child was placed with carers who were the subject of a previous allegation and more recent complaints, with Hiqa asking Tusla to escalate it to ensure the safeguarding arrangements in place were sufficient.
The highly critical inspection report also found that because of issues with how the service operated, “appropriate safeguarding arrangements were not in place for all foster carers”, and that there were significant delays in the commencement and completion of relative assessments, with many children placed for several years with unassessed relative carers. Of the eight standards assessed in the report, just two were substantially compliant, while six standards were non-compliant, of which five were major non-compliances.
According to the report: “There was an insufficient number and range of foster carers in place to meet the demand for services and more foster carers were leaving the service than were being recruited.”
The inspection included a review of 80 cases, following which 35 were escalated to the alternative care services manager for answers over concerns including the adequacy of investigations following a child protection or welfare concern or allegation about foster carers; both unassessed and unapproved relative carers, and adults living in foster carer households without Garda vetting; significant delays in the commencement and completion of relative assessments with many children placed for several years; and a lack of evidence of adequate safeguarding measures in place for these relatives and for foster carers without link workers.
While 37 carers who needed to be deregistered had not been formally removed from the foster care panel, many relative foster carers were awaiting assessments, with a small number of assessments taking more than a year to complete.
Reacting to the report’s findings, the Irish Foster Care Association (IFCA) said it was disappointed to see so many standards were found to be non-compliant such as garda vetting, complaints management, safeguarding and ongoing assessment and many others.
“Many of the findings of the inspection reflect issues that have continually been identified in IFCA’s National Support Service annual and mid-year reviews and at meetings with Tusla,” an IFCA spokesperson said, adding it welcomed Tusla’s action plan and had a commitment from the local Tusla area to engage in a process to further highlight and address the issues raised.
Tusla said it would address the concerns raised, including a review of all outstanding un-assessed relative foster carers to be completed by quarter one of 2018 and, before that, an audit of foster carers’ supervision and measures to help the recruitment and retention of foster carers.
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