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Dublin: 3 °C Tuesday 18 February, 2020
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Chair of Tusla says 'journey of reform' lies ahead with further improvements needed 'on a daily basis'

The former Labour Party leader was addressing foster carers at a conference this morning.

Pat Rabbitte addressed hundreds of foster carers at the IFCA conference today.
Pat Rabbitte addressed hundreds of foster carers at the IFCA conference today.
Image: Leah Farrell

FORMER LABOUR LEADER and chair of Tusla, Pat Rabbitte, has told foster carers that the Child and Family Agency is on a long path to reform, speaking at the Irish Foster Carers Association’s annual event this morning. 

There are around 4,500 carers in Ireland looking after some of the 6,000 children brought into State care in short-term, long-term and respite placements. 

Tusla was established in 2014 and is the governing body for foster care in Ireland. The majority of carers are employed through Tusla with the rest recruited through third-party agencies. 

Rabbitte, who gave an address at the event, acknowledged that “strong levels of support for foster carers can improve outcomes for children in care” while admitting “there are continuous improvements to be made” within the Child and Family Agency. 

“Tusla is on a journey of reform,” he said. “It is not a short or an easy journey but the new chief executive, [...] our colleagues and I, are up to the challenge and committed to seeing it through”. 

He added: “What is encouraging is the views of our most important stakeholder – the children we work with.”

“This kind of feedback is critically important to us because it tells us that many children are happy in their placements, but also that our foster carers are doing a great job of caring for children and young people.”

Insurance

This week saw the Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone announce that foster carers would now be covered under the State Indemnity Scheme managed by the State Claims Agency. 

It followed a three-year battle to provide insurance cover to carers in Ireland who lost the insurance cover they held when the HSE was responsible for recruiting and supporting them. 

Documents released to TheJournal.ie showed that many carers felt undervalued and neglected over the delay in providing a legally secure scheme that covers them in the event something happened while a child was in their care. 

Tusla said it supported all measures to expedite the process of securing insurance and was working with the Department of children and Youth Affairs to make it happen. 

The announcement came on the same day that a national emergency phone service for foster carers was announced following a three-month trial in Dublin. 

Recruitment

Tusla launched its first national recruitment campaign last month in a bid to bring more foster carers into the system, and to tackle misconceptions that only heterosexual  married couples can foster children. 

“Every child is unique, they have their own traits, their own characteristics, their own personalities, so we need foster carers who are also unique, who come from diverse background who can meet those unique needs of each child,” Tusla national lead for fostering, Patricia Finlay said. 

“Everyday, and I’m a social worker for 20 years, there is a child in Ireland who needs a foster placement and I can absolutely guarantee there is a child today who needs a foster carer, so the number [we need] varies.”

“We have children from the travelling community in foster care, we have children from Eastern European countries, so we’re looking for people who can respond to those ethnic and cultural needs.

“There is a misconception that if a child needs a foster carer we just go to a list and the first person on the list takes the child, that’s not true. We match their needs with foster carers that can respond to those specific needs.”

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