Children in care are among the most vulnerable in our society, and it is the responsibility of Tusla to ensure they are placed in safe environments. While it is not possible to remove every risk, Tusla makes every effort to assess thoroughly all people who wish to be foster carers.
The approval process for general foster carers can take several months. The assessment is carried out by a qualified social worker under the supervision of a social work team leader. The assessment focuses on the capacity and suitability of the applicants to provide safe, secure care to a child. An essential part of the process is to undertake safeguarding checks on potential foster carers, to include references, medical assessments and Garda vetting. This information is included in the report prepared for the foster care committee to assist them in making a decision regarding approval. Children are not placed with the foster carers until they are approved. The process includes ongoing Garda vetting for foster carers and adult family members, including their own children when they reach 16 years of age. An important part of the assessment process is that potential foster carers attend at information and training sessions, which include sessions on how to keep children safe in foster care.
In the case of children placed with relative foster carers, the child care regulations state that for an emergency placement in foster care, the assessment must take place as soon as is practicable. This is in recognition of unanticipated situations for some children, where their best interests may be met, at least initially, by placing them with relatives. However, the standards are clear that safety checks, including Garda vetting, must take place before the child is placed.
As many of the children who are placed with foster carers have previously been neglected or abused, foster carers are advised on ways to be particularly mindful in how they care for the children in this respect. Foster carers have a link social worker, which is separate to the child’s social worker, who provides support and supervision and is attentive to the impact of the fostering situation on all members of the foster carer’s family. The protection of children in foster care from harm is of the utmost importance in all circumstances.