Major failings in foster care services

Child protection groups are deeply concerned by practices which show some of Tusla’s foster care services are falling short of basic state standards.

Their fears came as a series of Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) inspections found major non-compliances with national standards in foster care services operated by Tusla in the Dublin South Central, Dublin North City, and Cavan/Monaghan areas.

In Dublin South Central, a region with 236 foster care households, 132 general carers, and 104 relative foster carers, Hiqa found the service operated by Tusla was in major non-compliance in relation to six standards. It was compliant in just one of the standards examined.

A number of serious risks were identified including long delays in the commencement and completion of relative foster carer assessments and in achieving a decision from the foster care committee.

Following the 2016 inspection, 41 unassessed and unapproved relative carers with whom children were living had been reported to the area manager.

While work had commenced on assessing the majority of the carers, only 11 assessments had been concluded in the 10 months following the inspection.

Not all children, it emerged, received a timely and appropriate response when a child protection concern was raised.

In the Dublin North City area, of the eight standards assessed, five were judged to be in major non-compliance.

The service had significant challenges in completing assessments of relative carers and there was “drift and delay” with some assessments.

Those conducted by Tusla were found to be of good quality but “gaps” were identified in Tusla’s oversight of those undertaken by private agencies.

Appropriate safeguarding arrangements were not in place for all foster carers and not all members of foster care households who were over the age of 16 were garda-vetted. In addition, 30 (9%) foster carers in the area had not been allocated a link worker.

In the Cavan/Monaghan region, not all foster carers or members of foster care households who were over 16 were vetted. Foster carers did not always have regular home visits with their link worker.

Of the 113 foster carers in the area, 52 (42%) had not been reviewed in over three years.

Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (ISPCC) CEO Gráinne Long said it was worrying that the same issues over Tusla foster care services were highlighted again and again.

“As more inspections of Tusla’s foster care services are published, we are gaining a clearer picture of the practices being followed, where services are meeting children’s needs and how and where they fall short of the State’s own standards for foster care services,” she said. 

“It is deeply concerning that the same standards are being missed time and time again by services operated by the same agency.”

Tusla chief operations officer Jim Gibson said the reports showed evidence of good practice as well as highlighting areas that are in need of improvement.

“This work takes time and we are committed to implementing the required actions as promptly as possible to improve the service for children, families and our foster carer community,” he said.

Tusla is almost one year into the implementation of a five-year Child Protection and Welfare Strategy.

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