Children’s services publication statement 15 July 2021

The Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) has today published inspection reports on two private foster care services. Inspections were carried out in Five Rivers Ireland and Fostering First Ireland in April 2021.  

HIQA is authorised by the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth under Section 69 of the Child Care Act, 1991, as amended by Section 26 of the Child Care (Amendment) Act 2011, to inspect foster care services provided by Tusla, to report on its findings to the Minister and to inspect services taking care of a child on behalf of Tusla, including non-statutory providers of foster care. HIQA monitors foster care services against the 2003 National Standards for Foster Care.

Fostering First Ireland

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.

Five Rivers Ireland

HIQA’s inspection of Five Rivers Ireland focused on the service’s compliance with eight standards including; safeguarding and child protection, assessment and approval of foster carers, supervision and support, reviews of foster carers, recruitment and retention, staff training and qualifications, effective policies and management and monitoring of the service. This inspection found that of the eight standards assessed, five standards were compliant, and three standards were substantially compliant. 

There were effective governance and management systems in place and the service had an adequate number of professionally qualified staff to deliver a high-quality service. Management systems were in place to enable effective oversight and monitoring of the service.

The service had a number of safeguarding arrangements in place, and staff and foster carers were aware of their responsibilities under Children First, and had completed the relevant training. A number of foster carers required their training in Children First to be updated. All foster carers had An Garda Síochána (police) vetting. Allegations and serious concerns were well managed and safety plans were implemented where required.

 
All foster carers had an allocated link social worker who provided regular support and supervision. There was also a 24-hour on-call service available to foster carers. 

Staff and foster carers were aware of the operational policies and plans in place. Recruitment processes were safe and in line with legislation. There were sufficient resources in place to recruit and train foster carers and enquiries were responded to in a timely manner. 

Comprehensive assessments were carried out on foster care applicants; however, they were not always completed within the required 16-week time frame. Some of this was due to restrictions in place during COVID-19. Reviews were carried out of foster carers and the majority of reviews were comprehensive and included all relevant documentation.

Training was provided for staff and the majority of staff received regular supervision; however, supervision records did not always reflect the progress of agreed actions.  
Improvements were required in relation to staff training and development plans, staff supervision and updated mandatory training for foster carers.