Serious failings in foster care services

Inspections of two private foster care providers have highlighted serious deficiencies, including a case where foster carers were not visited for two months following a “significant event”.

The inspections by the Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) found that of the seven national standards assessed at the Care Visions Fostering Service, all seven were non-compliant, of which five were identified as majorly non-compliant; while of the seven standards assessed at the Oak Lodge Fostering Service, five were majorly non-compliant.

Following the inspection of Care Visions, which has been operating since 2013 and had 20 foster care households across the country for 22 children, Hiqa escalated three cases.

It said risks in those cases included no Garda vetting for adult children of a foster carer where a child was placed; no safety plan in place for a child placed with foster carers where concerns were known to the social work team; and another case where no visits had occurred with the foster carers two months following a significant event.

It said the interim managing director provided a satisfactory response to address the risks and a Tusla area manager also responded with a satisfactory plan to manage the risks.

The service had previously been inspected in November 2016 and was found to require improvement. Since then it had experienced significant changes in structure, management team, and systems but there were still “significant challenges”, the report said.

A Tusla audit of Care Visions in July 2017 also highlighted “significant deficits” with the service, leading to Care Visions suspending new placements for an unspecified length of time.

Care Visions confirmed at the end of the inspection that it remained closed to admissions, yet according to the inspection report: “Hiqa found that Tusla social work teams continued to request placements from this service throughout the latter half of 2017 and up to and including the time of inspection despite the Tusla monitoring report.”

In later correspondence, Tusla told Hiqa that no requests would be made for placements until Tusla was satisfied with the standard of service provided.

A number of other problems were identified, including poor quality assessment of foster carers, with 15 foster care households having had placements end in the previous 12 months, the majority unplanned.

Hiqa also said “the service was challenged by delays in receiving outcomes of investigations from Tusla.

“Inspectors found that of the seven concerns reported to Tusla one remained open eight months since it was reported”.

An action plan to address those problems was issued, as was the case with Oak Lodge Fostering Service, operating since 2008 and which had 14 foster care households and foster care placements for 12 children.

Hiqa found a number of issues, including poor management and oversight of complaints, and according to the report: “Hiqa requested that the service undertake a full review of all files to assure themselves that all allegations and serious concerns had been reported in line with Children’s First, and responded to appropriately, that no other complaints had been missed, and that all complaints had been appropriately classified and responded to.”

Care Visions said it fully accepts the findings of the HIQA Monitoring Inspection Report on its service.
In a statement it said: “Since the HIQA inspection in January, Care Visions has put in place an Action Plan to comprehensively address each of the requirements identified. The Care Visions management team has also made significant changes to improve the quality of the service provision and build confidence in the foster care service it provides.”


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