THE number of children in foster care on the northside of Cork city is almost double that of the southside and the demand on social workers’ time means reports of neglect and abuse are not always dealt with in a timely manner.
These are among the alarming findings of a new report examining foster care services in Cork city and county.
Published yesterday, the report said the complexity of some cases, and the requirement for court appearances and report writing, had “an unequivocal impact” on social workers’ capacity to fulfil statutory requirements both to children in care and to children/families at risk.
The report, by the health watchdog, the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA), also reveals:
* 48 foster carers had not been appropriately assessed as to their suitability. In many instances, full assessments of relative foster carers did not take place within the required 12-week timeframe. Inspectors were told that relative carers referred to the Fostering Resource Unit (FRU) for assessment could experience a delay of two years before they were assessed and referred to the Fostering Approvals Committee (FAC).
* In one instance, children were placed with a relative carer who had criminal convictions. While an assessment was undertaken, the recommendation from the FRU to the FAC was not to approve the carer. However, the arrangement continued for a number of years.
* 183 children did not have statutory care plans; 48 carers were without a link social worker and 25 child care cases were unallocated to a social worker because of maternity leave. In addition, of a sample of 43 children in foster care, 14 had not been visited by social workers “for several years”.
The HSE is required to provide an action plan outlining its intention to meet the recommendations within three weeks.
Yesterday, the HSE said no child is placed in foster care without an initial screening which includes Garda checks. Six additional social workers have been taken on and the process will be completed in 12 months.
The HSE pointed out that all of the children interviewed by inspectors confirmed they felt safe and were happy living with their foster carers.
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