Failings in foster care system

Serious shortcomings in foster care services were found by the Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) last year.

Failings in foster care system

An inspection of two statutory and two private foster care services last year found there were delays in assessing carers.

Record-keeping was not always adequate and care planning for some children needed to be improved.

In particular, responses to child protection concerns reported to Child and Family Agency Tusla were not always recorded or followed up in private foster care services. The inspectors said management systems needed to be improved.

Foster care resources were limited in some service areas, and special placements were not always available.

Last week, an RTÉ investigation raised further serious questions over standards and procedures in the foster care system.

The Prime Time report alleged that children were left with a foster family in the west of the country for several years despite serious allegations of sexual abuse.

Hiqa’s national care team found that most children in foster care last year received good quality care and were well looked after in their foster care placements.

Foster care services in Cavan and Monaghan and Galway and Roscommon, two of Tusla’s 17 operational areas, were inspected between June and July last year.

In Galway and Roscommon, inspectors found that care plans were of “mixed quality” and plans and records did not always reflect the work undertaken with children and families.

Some children did not have an allocated social worker and while there were efforts to ensure named staff were in touch with them, the service did not meet the regulations.

Also, the oversight and management of allegations and complaints was not sufficiently robust to ensure all were captured and analysed.

In Cavan and Monaghan, inspectors found foster carers were not assessed and reviewed efficiently and promptly to meet children’s needs.

While checks were completed in line with regulations following emergency placements with relatives, there were some delays in completing the formal assessments.

Because of the delays, some children were placed with relatives where not all the potential risks had been identified.

Responding, Tusla said Hiqa carried out foster care inspections across their 17 operational areas.

Following an inspection, Hiqa issued an action plan and Tusla responded, outlining how it would address the issues raised.

Tusla said while it monitored the response of the private providers to the reports, the providers were responsible for implementing the action plan.

Hiqa chairperson Brian McEnery said they carried out over 100 inspections into children’s services last year.

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