Children’s services publication statement 29 June 2021

Date of publication:

The Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) has today published two inspection reports on two private foster care services operating in the Dublin Mid Leinster service area. Inspections were carried out in Orchard Fostering Service and Origins Foster Care Service in March 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.

The inspection reports and compliance plan can be found at www.hiqa.ie. 

Orchard Fostering Service

HIQA inspected Orchard Fostering Service’s compliance with eight standards including: safeguarding and child protection, assessment and approval of foster carers, supervision and support, reviews of foster carers, training and qualifications of staff and management and monitoring of the service. Of the eight standards assessed, five were compliant, one was substantially compliant and two were moderate non-compliances. 

The service was adequately resourced with systems in place to ensure that children were protected and that foster carers were well supported. Child protection and welfare concerns, as well as allegations and complaints about foster carers, were managed appropriately and in line with Children First (2017). There were effective safeguarding measures and systems in place. All foster carers had an allocated link worker, received training in Children First and were aware of their responsibilities as mandated persons. 

The service had a strategy for recruiting foster carers and applications from prospective foster carers were promptly responded to. Assessments of prospective foster carers were comprehensive, there was good oversight by managers and carers were approved by relevant foster care committees. There were adequate supports and training in place for foster carers, and carers were visited regularly. A high level of support and supervision of foster carers was maintained during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The system for monitoring foster care reviews required improvement. Where reviews had occurred, good records were maintained. However, link social workers were not progressing and completing reviews of foster carers, as required and in line with national standards. 

There were clear governance and management arrangements in place and a sufficient number of qualified and skilled staff to deliver the service. Serious incidents and significant events were promptly notified and appropriately managed. Information was shared effectively and there was a culture of quality improvement communicated across all levels of staff. 

Risk management systems were well established, but required improvement to ensure that risks in key areas of compliance with national standards were identified and addressed. An Garda Síochána (police) vetting for foster carers was not updated as required in all cases. Risks relating to gaps in key up-to-date information on children’s files, such as voluntary consent and care orders, as well as outstanding reviews of foster carers had not been identified prior to this inspection. 

Recruitment processes were safe, in line with legislation and best practice. Staff were supported to develop their knowledge and skills. The majority of staff received regular formal supervision, however, monitoring and oversight of supervision required improvement.

Origins Foster Care Service

HIQA’s inspection of Origins Foster Care Service focused on safeguarding, assessment and approval, supervision and support, training, reviews of foster carers, management and monitoring, and training and qualifications of staff. Of the seven standards assessed, six were compliant and one was substantially compliant.

The service was well led, with a competent management team who demonstrated good leadership. There were clear lines of communication and accountability, and staff were skilled, knowledgeable and clear on their roles and responsibilities. The service had robust management, reporting, auditing and governance systems in place that provided effective oversight of the services provided. There was a culture of learning and development across the service, where value was placed on providing adequate training for both staff and foster carers. 

Safeguarding systems were in place and effective in ensuring children were protected from abuse and neglect. Complaints were investigated and managed in a timely manner, and there was a risk management framework which identified relevant risks in relation to the services provided.

Assessments of prospective foster carers were of good quality, and provided in-depth analysis of the foster carer’s history and ability to provide good quality care for children. There was good management oversight of the assessment and approval process, and due process was followed when foster carers transferred into the service. A good level of training was provided to foster carers, and the management team maintained appropriate oversight of the learning and development needs of foster carers.

Foster carers were supported and supervised by a professionally qualified link social worker. Supervision visits were supportive, detailed and well recorded. However, supervision visits to foster carers were difficult to identify on the electronic filing system. The management team had identified issues in the timely recording and uploading of case records, carried out a review, and put additional audit systems in place to provide increased management oversight and governance regarding recording on foster care files. There had been delays in completing home visits to foster carers due to the public health restrictions arising from COVID-19. Appropriate actions had been identified to manage this risk in a timely and appropriate manner. Foster carers felt they received a high level of support and told inspectors that the service was responsive to their needs.

There was evidence of good practice and management oversight of the foster care review process, with additional reviews completed where necessary. Review reports were comprehensive and considered the current circumstances of the foster carers, their ability as foster carers and any concerns raised.