Children’s services publication statement 3 July 2019
The Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) has today published an inspection report on the foster care service operated by the Child and Family Agency (Tusla) in the Kerry 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 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. These focused inspections are announced and cover six standards.
HIQA conducted an inspection of the Kerry foster care service, located in Tusla’s South region, from 25 to 28 March 2019. Of the six standards assessed, two standards were compliant, two standards were substantially compliant and two standards were found to be moderately non-compliant.
At the time of the inspection, there were 155 children in foster care in the Kerry area. Of these, 56 children were placed with relatives and the remaining 99 children were placed with general foster carers, of which three were placed with foster carers from a private provider.
This inspection found examples of good practice in the area. For example, children had their needs adequately assessed and care planning and child in care review processes were well managed. The majority of children had an allocated social worker who routinely visited them. Social workers supported children and their families to remain in contact and to ensure parents continued to be part of their child’s life when this was appropriate. Children were encouraged and supported to attend child in care reviews. Nineteen children told inspectors that they had attended or were invited to attend these reviews and 17 children felt their views were reflected in their care plan. The quality of care plans for children was generally good and considered the needs of the child, family contact arrangements and supports required for children in their placement. However, the area did not complete placement plans for the children in care, as required by the standards.
Children with a disability received a good service. The service area made efforts to liaise with disability services to ensure children had access to the services and supports they required.
All eligible children were allocated an aftercare worker and the area demonstrated a commitment to providing an aftercare service.
There was a matching process in place and although there had been some good-quality matching for some children, improvements were required to ensure this was evident for all children. This was in the context of limited available foster care placements, which meant that not all children could be placed in their local community or with carers who shared the same ethnic background, or who had experience of providing care which was in line with the child’s individual needs. There were a number of foster care households providing care for more than two unrelated children which had not been risk assessed or approved by the foster care committee and there was a backlog of approvals of long-term placements.
There were a number of safeguarding practices in place to ensure that children were protected from all forms of abuse, and social workers were committed to protecting children in care. However, there were some examples of poor practices relating to an absence of a formal safety planning process, the categorisation of complaints, allegations and serious concerns and there was no managerial tracking system to maintain oversight of child protection and welfare concerns. When specific measures were taken to ensure children’s safety, these were not always reflected in formal, written safety plans. Inspectors sought assurances from the area manager about this issue and received a satisfactory response.
The Kerry service area has provided an action plan response to address the non-compliances identified on inspection. The inspection report and action plan can be found on www.hiqa.ie.