State removes foster children from families that are 'unsuitable'

Eilish O'Regan Health Correspondent

A NUMBER of vulnerable children placed with foster families that were later found to be unsuitable have been moved to alternative state accommodation.

Children's Minister Frances Fitzgerald confirmed the children were removed from the families in north west Dublin after inspectors, who looked at more than 370 placements last October, found serious allegations had been made against some foster carers.

The minister said she met with Gordon Jeyes, the HSE's National Director for Children, and Family Services on Tuesday to discuss the report.

"The child protection aspect of the report was unacceptable. Practice has to change.

"We have sent in a team and an independent expert will be appointed to be part of the team. I have met with management in Dublin north west.

"Every case has been assessed and there are child safety plans in place for each child," she added.

Ms Fitzgerald and Mr Jeyes were commenting yesterday after they addressed a child protection symposium organised by the Children's Rights Alliance in advance of the setting up of the new Child and Family Support Agency which will take over protection and welfare from the HSE.

She said the number of children with allocated social workers and a personal care plan in Dublin north-west have all improved dramatically.

"We have to acknowledge improvements as well as challenges.

"We are going to have another five reports on fostering in the next few months.

"I have no doubt failings will be uncovered but we are not going to change the system overnight.

"What is being highlighted is being addressed and will continue to be addressed," she added.

Mr Jeyes said social services try to place a child in need of foster care with the extended family first.

And, in emergency circumstances, this can happen before background checks are carried out.

He added: "The HIQA inspection report quite rightly pulled us up on those cases that can drift.

"The situation is monitored and decisions are made in the best interest of each child."

Mr Jeyes told the conference he will try to reduce the use of expensive senior counsel representing the State in childcare cases in court, as he wants to see more emphasis on mediation outside courts.