Sunday 11 December 2016

Foster children forced to share beds, says damning Hiqa report

Published 18/10/2016 | 02:30

Report: Hiqa chief executive Phelim Quinn. Photo: David Conachy
Report: Hiqa chief executive Phelim Quinn. Photo: David Conachy

Children in some foster families were forced to leave with their belongings in black plastic bags when their placement failed, a damning report revealed yesterday.

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Other children, who had to make an unplanned departure from the home where they were fostered, had their personal possessions withheld.

Some children were placed in overcrowded houses and they had to share beds with non-relatives.

The damning findings emerged in a Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) inspector's report on foster services in the Midlands, covering counties Laois, Offaly, Westmeath and Longford.

A number of serious risks to children were found during an inspection of the service in May, the report presented to Hiqa boss Phelim Quinn revealed.

At the time of the inspection there were 357 children in foster care.

Of these, 101 children were placed with relatives and the remaining 256 children were placed with general foster carers.

The report also revealed:

  • At the time of inspection, 12 foster carers were unallocated a social worker and waiting assessment even though children were already in their care.
  • It was not always clear that children were related or had an established relationship with carers who were due to be assessed to foster them.
  • A number of children had not been seen by social workers for periods greater than six months. Some children described poor-quality visits which were brief and organised at the last minute.

The report revealed that during the May inspection 12 of the 111 children's cases sampled, and one in 10 of the foster carer's cases, were escalated by the inspection team to the principal social worker for review.

It said that, overall, children's rights were respected and promoted, but 8pc of children did not have an allocated social worker.

Due to a limited number of foster families available, matching children to foster carers was not always possible, and 41 children were outside of the local area.

Families were split and 22 children were in different homes to siblings.

However, the report said the vast majority of children had warm relationships with their foster families, continued contact with their birth families, and were involved in a range of activities.

Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, said yesterday it recognised the shortcomings highlighted.

"Tusla has identified a range of measures including clear guidance and management oversight, which will improve the care experiences for children and foster carers going forward," Chief Operations Officer of Tusla, Jim Gibson, said.

"There is a comprehensive plan in place to address the changes that need to take place going forward."

Irish Independent

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