HIQA’s inspection of Fostering First Ireland focused on the service’s compliance with seven standards including; safeguarding and child protection, assessment and approval of foster carers, supervision and support, reviews of foster carers, training and qualifications of staff, effective policies and management and monitoring of the service. All seven standards assessed were found to be compliant.
The service was adequately resourced and had effective systems in place to ensure that children placed with foster carers were protected and safe from all forms of abuse and neglect. Allegations, serious concerns and complaints about foster carers were addressed in a timely manner and allegations were managed in line with Children First: National Guidance for the Protection and Welfare of Children, 2017 (Children First). Safeguarding arrangements included regular An Garda Síochána (police) vetting for foster carers and adults who had significant contact with children in care. Each foster care household had a safe care plan which was reviewed regularly. In addition, serious incidents and significant events were promptly notified and appropriately managed by the service.
Assessments of prospective foster carers were comprehensive, detailed and of good quality. Assessments were completed in a timely manner and there was good oversight by the management team. There was a clear process for the approval of foster carers by the relevant foster care committee. The assessments were a comprehensive analysis of the carers’ ability to be a foster carer and included verification of the information provided.
There was good practice in relation to the supervision and support provided to foster carers. Each foster care household had an allocated fostering link social worker, who visited regularly. During COVID-19 restrictions, supervision and support sessions were moved online, and foster carers were contacted by phone or email at least once a week by their link social worker.
The service had a system in place to ensure that good quality, comprehensive and detailed reviews of foster carers were carried out in line with the standards.
A risk management framework was in place which identified relevant risks in relation to the services provided. It was found to be up to date, and had appropriate measures in place to control risks.
Fostering First Ireland was a well-managed service with a competent and experienced management team who demonstrated good leadership to ensure the delivery of a high-quality foster care service. There were clear lines of accountability, staff were clear about their roles and responsibilities and there was a sufficient number of qualified and skilled staff to deliver the service. There were clear governance and management arrangements in place.