Inspectors found foster service exposed children to abuse risk
CHILDREN who were placed in foster families were left exposed to possible abuse "for a significant period of time" despite early warning signs.
Inspectors were so alarmed they had to invoke an urgent action plan to ensure the children were not at risk of harm.
The revelations have emerged in yet another critical report about the failure of social services in the HSE to properly protect children in care.
The concerns were raised during an examination of foster care services in Mayo by inspectors from the safety watchdog, the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA).
The inspectors, who carried out the work in April, found there were 16 concerns about the welfare and protection of children, which related to eight foster care families in the previous 12 months.
They found some were in potentially unsafe foster family homes for a "significant period of time" prompting the inspectors to order an immediate review of their care.
"The decision to issue an immediate action plan is an exceptional regulatory activity which is used when inspection findings indicate there is an immediate risk to the welfare of children and young people," the report disclosed.
The inspectors discovered a catalogue of concerns:
* At the time of inspection, 46 children did not have an up-to-date care plan.
* Ten children did not have a care review within the recommended time, leading to concerns about the safety and wellbeing of two of the youngsters. They were not reviewed for two years.
* While all foster carers were checked by gardai, this was not in place for all adults living in the foster family home.
* Six children were placed in the care of relatives who had not gone through a formal approval process.
* Inspectors found foster carers were not regularly reviewed to ensure their continuing capacity to monitor and manage potential or actual risk.
* A number of children were not monitored properly and social workers could not be assured they were safe.
Responding to the report Gary Kiernan, the HSE's regional specialist on children and family services, said: "This has been an excellent learning exercise and a number of changes have been put into place in our foster care service as a result."
"An action plan was put in place immediately to address the concerns and an audit has since confirmed that there are no current safeguarding issues in the foster care service," he added.
Meanwhile, a second inspection report by HIQA on how the HSE's child protection and welfare service in Waterford is run, found long waiting lists with 397 children needed initial assessments facing delays.