Yesterday’s report from the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) on foster care in the North West Dublin area identified significant gaps in the protection of children this area. In light of the report, the Minister for Children needs to prioritise addressing these issues.
While the detailed report did note improvements compared to previous inspections, it listed a range of issues that will be of real concern in Dublin 15.
It found that while many children in foster care were happy in the homes they had been placed, the Local Health Area could not guarantee good outcomes for children in the foster care service. This is particularly significant as the HSE has previously identified this as the local health area with the highest number of children in care in the whole country.
Currently, 368 children are in foster care in this area, but because of a lack of foster care places locally, over 41% have been sent to placements outside North West Dublin, which obviously causes problems for keeping in touch with family and friends.
The report identified that while most children were safe in foster care, there were a number of carers who were not deemed suitable for the task. It is deeply worrying that these individuals were allowed to continue to have children in their care. Combined with the report’s finding that a robust complaints procedure for children was not in place, this indicates that the conditions exist for potentially significant breaches of these children’s rights.
The HIQA report also notes that the child protection notification system (CPNS) being used by the North West Area was not in compliance with Children First guidelines on the protecting children. These guidelines were published in 2011 with the specific aim of ensuring the well-being of children and were seen as a response to the many child abuse and neglect scandals that had emerged. The report identifies 38 concerns about having been raised, but there was little evidence to suggest that all had been investigated.
When Minister Fitzgerald published the Children First guidelines, she stated,
“The principles of keeping children safe have not changed in the last decade, but what we have learned is the need for proper implementation, for independent inspection, for vigilance and for legislative compliance. It is no longer sufficient to say what needs to be done. We must ensure that all of society, particularly those in trusted positions with children, are fully aware of their responsibilities to children and are supported in their work”.
The Minister must now do whatever is necessary to ensure that her own words apply in the context of State organised fostering in the Dublin North West area. Anything less would be a complete betrayal of these vulnerable children.