Monday 23 October 2017

Children left in foster homes despite carer misconduct

Shane Phelan Public Affairs Editor

CHILDREN were left in foster homes even after misconduct allegations were upheld against adults caring for them, the health watchdog has said.

The finding is among a raft of serious concerns raised by the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) about foster-care services.

A new report highlights a series of issues, including a lack of urgency in investigating allegations of misconduct against foster carers.

The report analysed inspections carried out last year to give an overall picture of failings in the system.

In north Dublin, even after allegations were upheld, many of the children were not moved to new foster homes.

It is understood the cases involved ranged from verbal abuse to slapping, but did not relate to serious abuse.

An earlier HIQA report on north Dublin said 38 allegations and concerns about foster carers were made.

The analysis was released following a study of reports from several parts of the country. The watchdog also found:

* Some children did not have social workers.

* Others were living with unapproved foster carers.

* Foster carers were not always adequately supported or monitored.

* Some parts of the country had insufficient numbers of foster carers.

* Staff shortages in the HSE had also impacted on its capacity to deliver safe, high-quality fostering services.

* Some carers were offered very little training in dealing with vulnerable children with challenging behaviour.

* Garda vetting of carers and HSE staff was not always up to date.

The report said the system was under significant pressure, and in some instances these pressures were placing children at risk.

"In many areas there were insufficient numbers of carers. Although there were not many children awaiting foster care placements, there was little capacity in the system to respond to emergencies or especially complex cases," it said.

VULNERABLE

To compound matters, not all foster parents had a social worker to support them.

Concerns were also raised about what happens to children when they leave foster care, with a limited number of after-care workers.

"This posed a risk to young people who might not receive the supports they required at a particularly vulnerable time in their lives," said the HIQA.

Unfilled vacancies meant the HSE was struggling to meet its statutory obligations, and HIQA found that in some cases children were being bounced from one social worker to another.

"There was a risk that some children might not approach a social worker if there had been a number of changes in personnel," the report said.

Irish Independent

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