The health watchdog has criticised child protection procedures in the foster care system in the Mid-West.
A HIQA report published today has outlined how a series of issues, including how some foster carers in the MidWest have not been Garda vetted.
Clare Fm’s Gavin Grace reports:
This report, which focusses solely on the MidWest region, highlights serious shortcomings in the safeguarding of children in foster care in Clare, Limerick and North Tipperary.
There is no record of Garda vetting for 30 foster carers, or of 116 members of those households aged 16 and over.
There were also issues with allegations of abuse or neglect not being managed correctly and in a timely fashion.
Officials criticise the failure to allocate social workers to a number of fostering households, and also an insufficient frequency of safeguarding visists.
HIQA also found a lack of effective recruitment and retention strategies, and this meant there were insufficient foster carers in the region.
In all, the local service has been found to be seriously non-compliant in three of eight standards inspected.
The Child and Family Agency Tusla has submitted an action plan on how it plans to deal with these concerns which has been accepted by HIQA.
Full Tusla Statement:
Tusla – Child and Family Agency welcomes the HIQA inspection report published today in relation to fostering services in the Mid-West area. HIQA reports allow us to ensure that services are continuously improved to meet the highest standards. The report highlights both good practice and areas for improvement in the Mid-West area, the 3rd largest Tusla area nationally.
Commenting on the report Jim Gibson, Chief Operations Officer, Tusla said: “HIQA inspection reports are an important measurement tool and allow us to ensure that Tusla services are continuously improving and that services are of a high standard.
The report highlighted excellent practice in areas such as training and the quality of assessments of foster carers. There were also a number of areas that require improvement such as supervision and the timeliness of reviews. These areas are being actively addressed through a comprehensive action plan which has been submitted to HIQA.”
Examples of good practice include:
- Comprehensive assessments of prospective foster carers with good quality reports;
- Tusla ran a number of training events for foster carers over the previous 12 months;
- There were three foster care committees in the area which were all chaired by one chairperson to ensure standardised procedures and practices were implemented and the committee made clear and effective decisions;
- General foster care assessments were of good quality, were in line with the national assessment framework for foster carer and they provided a comprehensive analysis;
- Relative foster carers who hadn’t been assessed were allocated link workers to ensure safeguarding of children;
- Following approval of foster carers there was an annual programme of training available which covered a range of areas including Children First, mental health, and therapeutic crisis intervention.
Areas identified for improvement and associated actions include:
Standard 10 – Safeguarding and child protection
- A local policy has been implemented to address allegations against foster carers (in line with national policy)
- An audit of allegations against foster carers will be completed by Q4 2017;
- A visit will take place by a duty social worker every three months for foster carers without an allocated link social worker;
- There is a system in place to track renewals of Garda vetting and monthly audit will be undertaken to ensure compliance;
- All allegations and serious incidents will be notified to the Foster Care Committee and notifications will be reviewed every three months.
Standard 15 – Supervision and support
- An additional post has been approved to allow for the allocation of a link social worker to foster carers currently without an allocated link social worker;
- Frequency of home visits to foster carers will be reviewed and visits will take place every three months;
- The supervision of foster carers will be reviewed to ensure compliance with national standards;
Standard 17 – Reviews of foster carers
- Out of date foster carer reviews will be completed by Q2 2018;
- A fostering database will be used to track timelines of foster care reviews;
- The foster carer review template will be amended to show that the report was provided to foster carers;
- The foster care committee will be notified of all reviews;
- Recommendations of reviews will be tracked and monitored.
The actions in the action plan will be closely linked to Tusla’s major transformation programme which will enhance many aspects of the Agency, including organisational culture, HR strategy, governance systems, and further corporate functions.
As part of the transformation programme, the Agency has developed a new Child Protection and Welfare Strategy which will assist the Agency in providing a proportionate, timely and appropriate response to children and families, sharing responsibility and control with families and communities through co-created solutions and an inter-agency approach.
This will involve implementing a national approach to practice, which is based on the principles of ‘Children First’. The national approach to practice will be rolled out across all of the Agency’s services, with every function in the Agency being aligned to support the approach.