Foster children left in families with no Garda vetting
Children were left with foster families who were not properly Garda vetted and in some cases had not had checks carried out in three years, a damning report has revealed.
The failings in safeguards in the Tusla-run service were found by inspectors who investigated foster caring in Cavan, Monaghan, Dublin South Central, and Dublin North City.
In Cavan and Monaghan, a lack of foster families meant some households were overcrowded with extra children, the report by the Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) revealed.
"While there were a number of safeguarding measures in place, not all foster carers or members of foster care households who were over 16 years were Garda vetted," it found.
In Dublin South Central, the inspectors discovered the service was crisis-led rather than delivered in a planned manner. This was similar to findings from an inspection in November 2016.
While improvements were made in relation to Garda vetting of all staff, the service was hampered by staff vacancies.
This impacted on the completion of assessments of children who were referred to the service, the support and supervision of foster carers, and the completion of up-to-date reviews of foster carers. Inspectors felt there were "serious risks", including the long delays in the start and completion of assessments of relatives of the children who became their foster parents.
In Dublin North City, good assessments of general foster carers were carried out but not always within the 16-week timeframe set out in standards.
There were also gaps in Tusla's oversight of assessments outsourced to private agencies.
The report said: "In addition, 30 foster carers in the area had not been allocated a link worker, and more needed to be done to ensure these carers received adequate support and supervision."
In response, Tusla said: "Hiqa inspections are an important measurement and oversight tool for us in Tusla and allow us to ensure that our services operate at the highest possible standard."
Chief operations manager Jim Gibson said they show evidence of "positive practice and improvements in services."
However, he acknowledged that the reports "identify areas for improvement which we are targeting through comprehensive action plans which were agreed with Hiqa".
"This work takes time, and we are committed to implementing the required actions as promptly as possible to improve the service for children, families and our foster carer community," he added.