Children’s services publication statement 28 February 2019
The Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) has today published an inspection report on the foster care services operated by a private foster care provider. The report refers to Oak Lodge Fostering Service, in Tusla’s South Region. Prior to the publication of this report Oak Lodge Fostering Service ceased operating.
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 2017 and 2018 monitoring programme, HIQA conducted thematic inspections across all 17 Tusla service areas and all six private foster care providers, focusing on the recruitment, assessment, approval, supervision and review of foster carers. HIQA also inspected against an additional standard on the management and monitoring of foster care services in Oak Lodge. Due to concerns arising during an inspection of this private agency in January 2018, HIQA carried out another announced inspection in September 2018.
On this inspection, HIQA found that of the seven standards assessed:
- One standard was compliant
- Six standards were non-compliant, of which two were identified as major non-compliances and four were identified as moderate non-compliances.
Since the previous inspection in January 2018, the managing director had recruited a social work team leader, and inspectors found that the team leader had made improvements in the service. Respite arrangements for children were managed better, and supervision of foster carers and staff had improved. The team leader chaired reviews and ensured that they were managed in line with standards and regulations, and that any recommendations made were tracked.
Of concern for inspectors was that Oak Lodge fostering service remained in major non-compliance with the standards on safeguarding and child protection and management and monitoring. While the designated liaison person (DLP) had received training on child protection, inspectors found that until the week before this inspection child protection and welfare concerns were not reported correctly. The tracking system for An Garda Síochána (Irish police) vetting remained inadequate, and safety planning was not robust. Despite information provided by the managing director that all foster carers had been trained in Children First (2017), inspectors found that this was not the case.
The management and oversight of Oak Lodge remained a concern and governance structures were inadequate. There was evidence of only one management meeting occurring since the previous inspection. There was no risk register, and risks to the service were poorly managed with no contingency plans in place. There was no system in place to track the implementation of the actions arising from the previous HIQA inspection. There was no evidence of the managing director having oversight of child protection issues or of the monthly audits that were carried out with a view to identifying trends or deficits in the service, and there was no service improvement plan in place.
Following the January 2018 inspection, the Chief Operating Officer of Tusla had arranged for the local area manager to hold quarterly meetings with the managing director of Oak Lodge. The week prior to HIQA’s September 2018 inspection, an audit visit of Oak Lodge was carried out by monitoring officers from Tusla’s registration and inspection department. The monitoring officer told inspectors that they had concerns about the management and governance of the service and the management of child protection concerns, and that they had escalated their concerns within Tusla. The Chief Operating Officer of Tusla directed that no further children should be placed with Oak Lodge Fostering Service. In light of the concerns regarding the governance of the service found on HIQA’s inspection, inspectors escalated these concerns again to the Chief Operating Officer of Tusla.
Prior to the publication of this report, HIQA was informed that Oak Lodge Fostering Service had ceased operating on 31 January 2019. Tusla informed HIQA that all children in Oak Lodge fostering placements at the time of the closure of the service had been maintained in their existing placements and that their foster carers had transferred to alternative foster care providers or to Tusla foster care services in their respective areas.
This inspection report can be found on www.hiqa.ie.