HIQA undertakes inspection of foster care services against the National Standards for Foster Care, under Section 69 of the Child Care Act 1991. The purpose of foster care inspections is to review compliance with regulations and standards for all children. HIQA's inspection methodology includes interviewing HSE managers and social workers, a sample of children, carers and birth parents and review a range of files, including complaints.
Foster care services in HSE Dublin North West Area have been inspected by HIQA on three occasions since September 2009, the most recent of which took place in October 2012. Some progress was noted particularly in the area of foster carer assessment, approval and training with all general foster carers approved and significant improvements in the area of relative foster carers. Some 96 % of children in foster care had been visited by a social worker within the preceding six months.
Notwithstanding such progress, I was concerned to note that inspectors found that some deficits identified previously had not been rectified. Inspectors found that there were inadequacies in systems to assess risk and to investigate and take timely action in response to concerns. File keeping, data collection and analysis were also found to be lacking.
The inspection found that sufficient foster carers have not been recruited within the area and this has provided difficulties in making placements and matching children with particular needs with the most suitable carers. Recruitment of foster carers is of concern more generally and it is intended to conduct a national recruitment campaign in the coming months.
There were 38 complaints or allegations about 27 foster carers reviewed by HIQA. 34 complaints were investigated and 4 were underway. Ten concerns relating to child welfare and 7 related to physical abuse were confirmed. Investigations were underway in the remaining cases.
An Action Plan to address the weaknesses identified was prepared by HIQA. In order to ensure that the Action Plan is fully implemented, I have requested that the HSE set up a high level oversight process to be lead by the Head of Quality Assurance to ensure implementation of all the HIQA recommendations. I intend that this oversight process will provide regular updates to both me and HIQA on the implementation of the Action Plan. Yesterday I met with Mr Gordon Jeyes Chief Executive Designated of the Child and Family Support Agency to review the actions underway to address the critical issues identified.
An important finding in this inspection report is that many foster carers were providing high quality care and children's needs were being met. Foster carers were committed and child centred in their approach. They saw themselves as advocates on behalf of the child and availed of every opportunity to promote the child's best interests to achieve better outcomes.