herald

Thursday 17 August 2017

Vulnerable children left with unfit foster families who were 'known risks'

ISPCC chief Grainia Long
ISPCC chief Grainia Long

Vulnerable children in the capital were put at risk by being left with foster families deemed unfit to care for them, a new report has revealed.

The children were placed with relatives who were rejected by social services due to concerns and "known risks".

However, instead of being removed, a small number were left to live with the families, said inspectors from the patient safety watchdog, the Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa).

The revelation is among a litany of concerns uncovered during an inspection of foster care services in Dublin South Central, which were described as "crisis-ridden".

The area covers the south inner city, Rialto, Inchicore, Ballyfermot, Clondalkin, Rowlagh, Palmerstown and Lucan.

It has a high population of children under the age of four and includes many families from Poland and Lithuania.

There were 351 children in foster care in the Dublin South Central area when it was inspected in November and early December.

The inspectors found six foster carers had yet to be vetted.

Another 107 carers had not been put through repeat vetting within the three-year deadline, as required under regulations.

Failure

Concerns also emerged about the failure to always secure garda vetting for other adults living with, or who had unsupervised access to, children.

Twenty-seven child protection and welfare complaints related to the foster care of children in the previous 12 months.

In a number of cases these related to the foster parents, but when files were checked three other concerns were found.

The files of two Tusla staff showed no evidence of them having gone through garda vetting, the report said.

Hiqa said the management of concerns was inadequate and a significant risk to children.

There were also 17 incidents of children going missing from care in the Dublin South Central area in the previous 12 months.

The review found long delays in assessing children for fostering, a place in a care home, adoption or an alternative such as moving in with a relative.

Some children had been waiting since 2012 for a decision.

In cases relating to foster carers who were relatives of children, Hiqa found some were in placements for up to six years before a comprehensive assessment had been completed.

The inspectors also said they found a small number of unapproved relative carers who had not appropriately engaged in the assessment process and where potential or known risks existed.

"Allowing a child to be cared for by an unassessed and unapproved relative carer for several years posed a significant safeguarding risk," Hiqa said.

A separate report that looked at Care Visions, a private fostering service, said children were cared for in safe and appropriate homes and had their physical and emotional needs met.

However, management and monitoring systems required significant improvement.

Inspectors were told there had been no child protection concerns in the previous two years. However, a review of files showed four concerns of a child protection nature.

Tusla and Care Visions both said yesterday that action plans are now in place to address the issues.

However, ISPCC chief Grainia Long said the report pointed to a service that was crisis-led.

"The fact that just one of our national standards has been met is extremely disappointing," she said.

"These inspections took place in November and December 2016 and follow a pattern of similar inspections held in 2016.

"Minimum standards are not being met in a way that children expect."

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