Children’s services publication statement 19 September 2019

Date of publication:

The Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) has today published an inspection report on the foster care services operated by the Child and Family Agency (Tusla) in the Midlands service area.

HIQA is authorised by the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs 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 for Children and Youth Affairs 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.

As part of its 2019 and 2020 monitoring programme, HIQA is conducting inspections across all 17 Tusla service areas, focusing on six standards: the child and family social worker, assessment of children and young people, care planning and review, matching carers with children and young people, safeguarding and child protection and preparation for leaving care and adult life. 

HIQA conducted an inspection of the Midlands foster care service, located in Tusla’s Dublin Mid-Leinster region from 14 to 17 May 2019. Of the six standards assessed, two standards were compliant, two standards were substantially compliant and two standards were found to be non-compliant, both of which were identified as moderate non-compliances.

Children who met with or spoke to inspectors said they felt safe in their foster homes and were happy and well cared for in their placements. The majority of children were happy with the contact they had with their families and described positive relationships with their social worker. 

There were many areas of good practice in the area. There were no dual-unallocated cases and, where children did not have an allocated social worker, social care leaders carried out safeguarding visits every three months. Children with a disability received a good service, and social workers encouraged and facilitated contact between children and their families and tried to ensure that children maintained positive family relationships. 

The majority of children in care had an allocated social worker but 63 (17%) did not due to staffing shortages. Some children did not have a consistent social worker to implement their care plans during the two years prior to the inspection. Many children were visited regularly by their social workers but there were some children who were not visited as often as required. 

Child in care reviews were well managed and care plans were up to date. Some care plans had not been signed off for a considerable time after the child in care reviews, and, following the inspection, inspectors escalated this issue to the area manager, who provided a satisfactory response. Children also had placement plans which were discussed at reviews. 

The voluntary consent provided by some parents when their children were admitted into care was not formally discussed in reviews, and some voluntary consent forms had not been updated for several years. Inspectors also escalated this issue to the area manager, who provided a satisfactory assurance that all voluntary consent would be reviewed and renewed, and that the voluntary consent forms would be completed in line with best practice. She also stated that the review of voluntary consents would be incorporated into the care review process. 

There were practices to ensure that children were safeguarded from all forms of abuse. All foster care households had an allocated link worker, and there were increased visits from social workers and social care leaders when children required extra support. There was good oversight of allegations and concerns against foster carers, which were well managed; however, child protection concerns were not always investigated by the duty social workers in the area where the children lived. When additional safety measures were required in placements, they were formalised in safety plans which were of good quality. 

There was a clearly-defined matching process in place and the area had introduced improvements to placement request forms; however, the matching that took place was not always reflected on all children’s files. There was a shortage of foster care placements in the area, which meant that a large number of children were placed outside the area in private placements. There was also a back-log of approvals of long-term placements.

There was a well-developed aftercare service in the area. Assessments of need and aftercare plans were of good quality, and young people were involved in their own planning. Children and young people in foster care were helped to develop the skills and competence necessary for adult living.  

The service areas have provided action plan responses to address the non-compliances identified on inspection.