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.