An inspection of a foster care service operated by Tusla in one area found there had been two deaths or serious incidents involving children in care and 24 'need to know' reports over the previous two years.
The report by the Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) of the Louth/Meath service shows there were also four serious concerns raised about foster carers. Four children had been removed from their foster placements as a result of child protection and/or welfare concerns.
A 'need to know’ report is an incident or event that is likely to attract immediate public, political or media attention.
According to the report: "The principal social worker told the inspector they did not maintain a tracker of children missing from care but kept a record and that the information was collated on a quarterly basis for the area manager.
"Some incidents of children being missing from care were notified through the national ‘need to know’ reporting process. The inspector reviewed the need to know reports from the 12 months prior to the inspection and found that significant events were notified as appropriate."
The inspections took place last August.
Data provided by the service area to Hiqa indicated that there had been 25 unplanned endings in the 12 months prior to the inspection. In 24 cases, an additional review of the child’s care plan had been conducted in line with the regulations.
There were nine allegations made against foster carers in the 12 months prior to the inspection, including four serious concerns about foster carers, one of which was under appeal at the time of the inspection. Three of these concerns had been upheld.
"Four children had been removed from their foster placements as a result of child protection and/or welfare concerns," it said.
Hiqa said the area did not have sufficient numbers of foster carers to place children within its borders, but this was included on their risk register and the area planned to continue working to recruit more foster carers. It added that 22% of children in foster care in the area were placed with relatives.
"One foster carer told the inspector that it was 'a fight' to get the supports required for the child."
It also said: "The area had identified the lack of appropriate support from disability and mental health services as a risk in the area."
We have published an inspection report on a foster care service operated by the Child and Family Agency (Tusla) this morning. Find out more at: https://t.co/xyPbWQvwip— HIQA (@HIQA) November 24, 2020
According to the report, team leaders told inspectors that they were vigilant to new and increased risks to children from access to social media. They said that social workers had assisted foster carers to put parental controls in place.
At the time of inspection there were 379 children in foster care in the area, and 99% had an allocated social worker.
There was good management oversight of children who did not have an allocated social worker.
Overall Hiqa found that of the six national standards assessed, three standards were compliant and three standards were substantially compliant.
Responding to the findings, Tusla noted the positive feedback from Hiqa on foster services in the area and said any shortcomings will be addressed by a service improvement plan.
Grainne Sullivan, Area Manager, Tusla Louth/Meath, said: "As well as the many areas of good practice, we also address areas where improvement is required and make the necessary improvements - as well as ensuring that good practice is maintained".