Pledge to address severe failings in foster care

Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, has pledged to address shortcomings in foster care services in two locations following critical inspection reports by health watchdog Hiqa.

The inspection reports issued by the Health Information and Quality Authority into foster care services in Dublin North and Sligo/Leitrim/West Cavan found a number of areas of major non-compliance.

In Dublin North, 82% of foster carers had not had a review in more than three years, Garda vetting of foster carers had not been updated in some cases, there was inadequate arrangements to ensure that safeguarding visits to unallocated foster carers had taken place, and significant delays were found in approving relative carers who had children placed with them for a considerable period of time.

In Sligo/Leitrim/West Cavan, Hiqa found that in the 12 months prior to the inspection, there had been a high level of staff turnover, including several changes of principal social worker and periods of staff shortages.

“As a result, the frequency of visits to foster carers had been impacted,” it said. “Garda vetting had not been updated for 34% of foster carers, and half of all foster carers had not been reviewed in over three years. Relatives who had children placed with them were not supervised and supported while awaiting their assessments to be completed.”

There were also significant concerns about the recording, filing and IT systems in the area. According to the report: “Complaints were not appropriately classified and key information pertaining to foster carers was not readily accessible. Due to the significant concerns in relation to the filing, recording, and IT systems in the area, inspectors were concerned about the managerial oversight and monitoring of the fostering service and escalated this issue to the area manager, who provided Hiqa with an action plan to address these deficits.”

While there were examples of good practice highlighted by Hiqa, the issues uncovered in Dublin North and in Sligo/Leitrim/West Cavan comes after another critical inspection report into foster services in Cork.

Patricia Finlay, service director, Tusla, said the Child and Family Agency was determined to correct shortcomings identified in the Hiqa reports. “Tusla remains committed to improving our compliance with the national standards for foster care and in conjunction with Hiqa we have created and begun to implement action plans in response to the two reports,” she said.

In Dublin North, Tusla said all individuals whose Garda vetting needs to be renewed have been identified, while all foster carers now have an allocated link social worker and have been visited in the last six months.

It also said six relative foster care assessments which had been delayed will be presented to the Foster Care Committee for consideration by September, a schedule has been put in place to review all foster carers who have not had a foster carer review in over three years, and a fostering recruitment strategy is being developed and will include an action plan.

In Sligo/Leitrim/West Cavan a Quality, Risk and Service Improvement Forum has been created, two additional staff have been allocated to the fostering team, and a formal retention strategy for foster carers is being developed, among other measures being put in place. 

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