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Record Chaos

June 9, 2010 permalink

In Ireland the politicians are looking into the death rate in foster care. Today's news shows that the records are a useless jumble of inaccuracies. Child protectors routinely take children from parents for "messy home". Any chance a judge will return children because of "messy records"?



Files on foster care unreliable, audit claims

SOCIAL SERVICES inspectors have uncovered inaccurate, unreliable and missing records as part of an audit of files on children in foster care in the Dublin area.

In addition, it found items belonging to children, such as photographs, letters and a baby bracelet, had fallen out of files with no identification to attach to the file or child.

Among the concerns identified by the Health Information Quality Authority (Hiqa) as part of its audit of Dublin northwest and Dublin central local health offices were:

  • Incorrect dates of birth and incorrect names in files;
  • Files missing, as well as files with unsecured loose-leaf information that was not in order and files that were “falling apart” and
  • Information held randomly on hard copy files with no policy to guide what systems should be used for different recordings.

The authority has since passed on its concerns – uncovered in October of last year – to the Data Protection Commissioner, who is working with the Health Service Executive (HSE) to improve record-keeping.

The findings will be contained in a report on foster care services to be published by the authority next month.

In a letter to the chief executive of the HSE, Prof Brendan Drumm, last November, the authority warned: “These issues give rise to further concern as to how the HSE is able to assure itself that the necessary systems and processes are in place to safeguard and manage the quality and safety of such children in its care.”

In response, the HSE says it has drawn up an action plan to address any shortcomings.

It has established a task force for children and family services which aims to assess the current child-protection system and accelerate the development of a national standardised approach to the delivery of child protection services.

The audit involved trawling through more than 1,000 files relating to 800 children in care. On closer inspection, it found a total of 76 child-protection concerns relating to children who were in foster care.

It said local teams were not dealing with these concerns and the HSE had since begun to deal with them.

However, the authority says it returned the files to the HSE for further review as their investigations were “inadequate”. In addition, some 500 possible child-welfare issues were identified by inspectors which had not been resolved by local social work teams.

On foot of the audit, inspectors contacted foster carers and interviewed a sample of children, their carers and birth parents earlier this year.

Initial findings show that while children were safe, there was considerable anxiety over the lack of contact with the HSE, as well as concern over issues of identity, care status and uncertainty.

The audit also found that children in care as young as five have been inappropriately placed in supported lodgings designed for teenagers who require lower levels of support.

Supported lodgings are a form of independent living within a family setting which allow young people, typically aged 15-18, to develop practical skills in a nurturing environment. Inspectors found that at least 10 children aged between five and 14 have been placed in these settings in the Dublin northwest area.

Inspectors also interviewed social work managers and teams and found pockets of excellent practice where a case was allocated.

However, there was also inconsistency over how risks to children were managed and assessed. It found there was no overall management of safety, quality or availability of service.

Source: Irish Times

messy records
Child protection records