A number of serious risks to children have been highlighted in a damning inspection report into the foster care service in the Midlands.
HIQA inspectors found some children had been in a foster care for five years without any decision being made on their future.
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 due to a lack of timeliness and or appropriate action.
It said overall children’s rights were respected and promoted, but 8pc of children did not have an allocated social worker.
There was neither a social worker nor link worker assigned in nine children’s placements.
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.
Due to a limited number of foster families available , matching children to foster carers was not always possible and 41 children were placed outside of the local area at the time of inspection.
However, the vast majority of children had warm relationships with their foster families, continued contact with their birth families, some supports and were involved in a range of activities.
Children reported positively about the aftercare service, but also spoke about the impact of being placed with families far from home on their relationships with family and friends.
The assessment of general foster carers was good and there was a regional initiative in place to process new fostering applications.
While there was a system in place to conduct fostering reviews, reviews did not occur on a consistent basis in response to unplanned endings or where allegations had been made. The support received by foster carers varied, and the quality of supervision of carers needed improvement.
However, there remained significant challenges in managing cases awaiting allocation, completing assessments on relative carers, ensuring children had up-to-date care plans and foster carers having timely reviews.
Information systems were not fit for purpose for the service. However, a new system was due to be operational by the end of May 2016. The quality of record keeping in the service varied.
In response Tusla, theChild and Family Agency said today recognises the shortcomings highlighted in the inspection report of foster care services in in the Midlands area.
Jim Gibson, Chief Operations Officer, Tusla said: “It is with regret that we acknowledge the shortcomings of the fostering service in the Midlands area. We have been aware of and working to address key areas for the last 18 months through increased resources and improved practices.
“There have been many challenges for the service, during a difficult period and staff have remained committed to providing a service for children and families.”
He said that HIQA reports are an important measurement tool and allow us to ensure that services operate at the highest possible standard.
“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.
“ Tusla recognises that much has been done to improve services in the area, and there is a comprehensive plan in place to address the changes that need to take place going forward. These changes will ensure the safety and wellbeing of all children in our care.”