13th April 2016
The report on the Prime Time programme aired on Tuesday, 12th, was very distressing and we need to ask, how this could happen. This is not a historical case; the initial allegation was made in 2007, the second in 2011; less than five years ago. The Irish Foster Care Association is deeply concerned at the failure to protect all children in care.
Unfortunately it is only the failed stories that reach the press and thankfully these incidents are the exception rather than the rule. The majority of foster care placements are successful and young people, given the opportunity to be raised in a foster home, go on to lead full and active lives.
Recent statistics from Minister Reilly’s office show that 11% (165) of children in the West didn’t have an allocated social worker; the National total was 7% (451 children). This is unacceptable; all children in care should have an allocated social worker. Our concern is if those foster families don’t have an allocated link worker, there is no one visiting that home. Families undergo a stringent assessment prior to being registered as foster carers and they need to be supported and supervised throughout their time as carers.
Tusla received additional resources this year but not sufficient to ensure all fostering and child protection teams are at full capacity and that services, so badly needed by children in care, are available. All social workers need support and supervision in their own roles to help them deal with the issues they face in their everyday roles and reduce the turnover of social workers in the Child Protection system. Attrition of social workers must be reduced; social workers need to be stable members in the young person’s life so if they have issues they know who to go to.
A National Policy on dealing with allegations needs to be ratified and rolled out nationally with ongoing monitoring to ensure it is being adhered to in all areas. On Prime Time, Tusla commented that “HIQA inspections had found that ‘overall, children were provided with a safe foster care service’ and ‘the service was well managed’ including the management of allegations against foster carers”. Tusla have a Policy in place for dealing with Allegations against foster carers, (Policy and Procedures for Responding to Allegations of Child Abuse and Neglect, Sept. 2014). IFCA is aware of this policy, however we are also aware that this policy is not being implemented across all fostering and child protection teams. Many areas are using their own local, historical policy. IFCA consider it imperative that all appropriate individuals are made aware of the relevant policies and procedures in place. Knowledge of the rights and responsibilities one has in complying with any given policy facilitates an easier transition through what is a difficult situation for all involved.
IFCA continue to view the appropriate and efficient management of allegations to be of utmost importance. We have on numerous occasions, most recently last month, directly articulated to Tusla that the lack of clarity and definition surrounding the investigation of allegations against foster carers may indicate an approach that ultimately is not serving the welfare and safety of children appropriately.
On behalf of foster carers who provide excellent care to over 93% of children in the care system in Ireland we appeal to Tusla to ensure that practices and processes are in place to hold the safety and welfare of children as paramount and to ensure these carers are supported in their roles. IFCA remains available to provide support to all involved in foster care through our Helpline (01 458 5123) that runs every week day from 11am – 3pm.
For further comment: contact Breda O’Donovan, Acting CEO @ 086 4118630