Emergency out of hours services should be rolled out across the country: Children & Youth Affairs Committee Report on Foster Care Services in Ireland

The Joint Committee on Children and Youth Affairs has today published its Report on the Provision of Foster Care Services in Ireland.

09 November 2017

The Committee initiated its examination of Irish foster care services on foot of the HIQA report on foster care services in Dublin Mid-Leinster and Dublin South Central which was published in April of this year.

The Committee agreed to examine the foster care system in order to gain a greater insight into foster care in Ireland and to ascertain where improvements could be made.

Some of the report’s recommendations include:

• That Emergency Out of Hours Service (EOHS) be provided in all areas of the country. It further recommends that the gaps in the service are closed immediately so that EOHS are available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

• That link social workers be assigned to all foster carers to provide support. The Committee recommends that a dedicated social worker be provided to all children in foster care.

• That co-location of Gardaí and Tusla officials in specialist child protection units be implemented at the earliest possible date to strengthen the area of inter-agency collaboration and data sharing and to mitigate against risks posed by gaps in the Emergency Out of Hours Service.

• That plans are put in place to ensure that vulnerable children are not returned after repeated instances of removal under Section 12 of the Childcare Act 1991 to the same circumstances that required them to be taken into care in the first place.

Committee Chair, Alan Farrell TD said, “The Committee undertook this examination of the current foster care system because of the disturbing revelations in HIQA’s April report which highlighted significant risks in relation to child welfare within the foster care system.  The Committee believes that action must be taken in order to further strengthen the protections that we, as a State, afford to our vulnerable children. This report contains 12 recommendations that – if implemented – could contribute towards real, tangible reform of our child protection system and processes.”

“The Committee met with Dr Geoffrey Shannon to consider the findings of his Audit Report on Section 12 of the Childcare Act 1991. This report examines cases where children are removed from their parents/legal guardians by An Garda Síochána and placed in care. Dr Shannon’s Report highlighted incidents of repeated removal of children from the same families under Section 12. Members raised concerns that the same children were returned to their families after removal under Section 12. The Committee supports the recommendations made in Dr Shannon’s Audit Report on Section 12 of the Childcare Act 1991 and advocates that these recommendations are implemented within an agreed timeframe.”

“During the course of our hearings, we heard that there is a real shortage of social workers in Ireland. Social workers play a crucial role in protecting and nurturing children in care, so the current dearth of social workers is of significant concern to the Committee. We are recommending that the State invests in the provision of more social workers and we are calling for dedicated social workers for each individual child in foster care.”

“Above all, this report has a simple aim: to protect vulnerable children and provide them with a safe environment in which to grow up. At the end of March 2017, there were 6,300 children in the care of the State and 92% of these children were cared for in foster placements. Foster carers provide an invaluable service to the State and they must be appropriately supported so they can continue to provide a safe home and support to young people.”

Read the report here

ENDS/

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Joint Committee Membership:

Chairperson: Alan Farrell TD (Fine Gael)

Deputies:

Lisa Chambers (Fianna Fáil);
Tom Neville (Fine Gael);
Kathleen Funchion (Sinn Fein);
Denise Mitchell (Sinn Féin);
Seán Sherlock(Labour);
Anne Rabbitte (Fianna Fáil)

Senators:

Lorraine Clifford-Lee (Fianna Fáil)
Máire Devine (Sinn Fein)
Joan Freeman (Taoiseach Nominee)
Catherine Noone (Fine Gael)