There have been more than 50 confirmed cases of child protection and welfare concerns against foster carers in the past two years, with almost half occurring in the west of the country.
Figures released under Freedom of Information showed 24 “founded” child protection and welfare concerns against a foster carer, as presented to the foster care committee, in 2015.
Last year the number of confirmed cases increased to 29.
However, areas of highest population density had the lower number of cases: there were nine in Dublin Mid-Leinster across both years, and nine in Dublin North East in the same period.
In the South there were 12 cases, including 11 last year, with cases in Cork accounting for five of those.
In the West, there were 23 cases in total across both years, with the mid-west area responsible for 14 of those. The western area had 16 founded cases in 2015.
The cases could include physical abuse but Tusla pointed out that as a proportion of the number of children in foster care the number of confirmed cases against foster carers was low.
“At the end of February 2017 there were 5,822 children in foster care placements,” a Tusla spokesperson said.
“The large number of children in foster care is a testament to the generosity of families, who open their homes to children who can’t live with their own parents.”
The spokesperson added that Tusla screens and assesses all child protection concerns received in line with Children First guidelines.
Responding to the figures, Catherine Bond, CEO of the Irish Foster Carers Association (IFCA) said the large number of cases in the West, relative to the rest of the country, was “surprising”.
Ms Bond said only Tusla could know why there was an apparent disparity and said it could be because supports and resources are fewer, or because the supports were so good it aided better detection of cases where something had gone wrong.
“The numbers are the numbers and they can’t be negated and we have to ask what levels of support are being put in,” she said.
“Every allegation is significant and serious.”
Ms Bond said compared to the overall number of foster carers the number of proven cases was low but added: “I would also say one is one too many.
“Generally children in foster care do very well,” she said.
“These are the exceptions to the norm. They [the children] are attending school, doing extra-curricular activities, they are doing very well.”
On current levels of support she said the situation had improved but added that there was still “room for improvement” and that recent figures showed 8% of foster carers did not have an allocated link social worker.
The IFCA has welcomed Tusla’s new five-year child protection and welfare strategy.
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