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Wednesday 19 September 2018

Foster children left at risk by living with teenagers not vetted by gardaí

(stock image)
(stock image)
Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

An inspection of foster families has found some children are living in homes where not all young adults in the house are Garda vetted, a report revealed yesterday.

The law states that once a person is 16 and living in the same home as a fostered child they must be checked out by gardaí for safety reasons.

The inspection of foster services in counties Wexford and Waterford also showed there were delays in updating the vetting of households fostering a child.

The examination of services by the Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) is the latest critical report on child protection and welfare services run by Tusla. It comes just days after a major investigation found serious shortcomings in its operations.

The report on foster services, carried out in January and February in the two south-eastern counties, said there were delays in completing assessments of foster carers who were relatives of the children and also among those not related to them.

"There were five relative foster carers who were unassessed and with children placed at the time of this inspection."

Reviews of foster carers were also not up to standard and 79 of the 306 fostering households had not had a review in more than three years. In the case of one family the delay extended 11 years between reviews.

The quality of the reviews was mixed and while they had good comprehensive information, the recommendations were generic and did not capture the specific needs of foster carers.

The inspection found the system of recording and tracking complaints, allegations and concerns was not robust.

Not all allegations and concerns were correctly classified or identified by the foster care service. Two allegations were not managed and investigated in line with Children First or national policy and procedure for responding to allegations of child abuse and neglect against foster carers.

Records reflected actions were taken to assess the allegation; however, the carers were not informed of the allegation and a notice of the accusation was not completed and sent to the appropriate people.

Two foster care committees were in operation in the area and both were comprised of a range of experienced members who made clear decisions and carried out its work effectively.

However, both committees were not fully compliant with the standards and national policy, procedures and best practice guidance.

Tusla "has provided an action plan response, with implementation timelines, to address the non-compliances identified on inspection".

The report highlighted good practices and initiatives. Tusla is now completing an action plan to address the issue raised.

Meanwhile, Hiqa's annual report revealed yesterday that last year it received 108 concerns and tip-offs about children's services last year.

It received 1,118 similar concerns about nursing homes and centres for people with a disability.

"Unsolicited information is provided to us by members of the public who have a concern or an issue with the care provided to residents," it said.

Hiqa is able to use this information to inform its inspection and monitoring of services.

The patient watchdog received 327 "protected disclosures" during the year relating to alleged wrongdoings on safety standards in the health and social services areas.

Irish Independent

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