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Policy Information

Alternative Care

Published: 14 March 2019
From: Department of Children and Youth Affairs

Introduction

A child is placed ‘in care’ by Tusla, when their parents are not able to care for them. This means that the child leaves their home and lives in a new home with people who can care for them.

Where possible, the child is placed in an area close to their own community to help minimise disruption in other parts of their daily lives such as attending school and meeting friends.

If the situation does not improve, Tusla may request a Supervision Order from the Court. A Supervision Order permits Tusla professionals to visit and monitor the health and welfare of a child.

If concerns persist and the parents are considered unable to care for a child, the child may be taken into care. In the majority of cases, this happens voluntarily. But if not, Tusla may apply to the Court for a Care Order.

Protecting and Supporting

The Review of the Child Care Act 1991 is the main legislation that deals with child care in Ireland. This gives Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, the duty to promote the welfare of children who are not being cared for properly. Under the Act, a child is a person under the age of 18 years who is not or has not been married.

If Tusla is concerned that a child is not being looked after properly - a variety of supports will be offered to the parents to enable them to adequately care for their child. This could include support from family support workers, social workers, youth workers, family resource centres, support groups and counselling services. If the situation does not improve, Tusla may request a Supervision Order from the Court. A Supervision Order permits Tusla professionals to visit and monitor the health and welfare of a child.

If concerns persist and the parents are considered unable to care for a child – the child may be taken into care. In the majority of cases, this happens voluntarily. But if not, Tusla may apply to the Court for a Care Order.

A child is placed ‘in care’ by Tusla, when their parents are not able to care for them. This means that the child leaves their home and lives in a new home with people who can care for them. Where possible, the child is placed in an area close to their own community to help minimise disruption in other parts of their daily lives such as attending school and meeting friends.

Foster Care

Foster care is the care of children outside their own home by people other than their parents (biological or adoptive) or legal guardians.

Foster care is the main form of alternative care for children in need of care and protection, and is the preferred option for children who cannot live with their parents. There are two main forms of foster care available to children who require care: general and relative.

At the end of May 2019 , there were 6,012 children in care. 92% of these children were cared for in foster placements, either by relative foster parents or by approved foster families. The majority of children are in the care of general foster carers, compared to foster care with relatives.

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Adoption

The Adoption Policy Unit develops policies and legislation in order to achieve better outcomes for children, young people, and their families, in relation to adoption.

The work of Adoption Policy Unit is underpinned by the Adoption Act 2010, which was commenced on 1 November 2010.

The commencement of the Act coincided with Ireland's ratification of the Hague Convention on the Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Inter-country Adoption.

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Residential Care

Residential care provides a safe and nurturing environment for individual children and young people who cannot live at home, or in an alternative family environment, such as foster care.

Residential care can be provided by statutory (example: Tusla ), voluntary (not for profit) or private providers.

Approximately 6% of children in care are in a residential placement.

There are two primary forms of residential care:

These units are usually based in a local community and have a small number of children living them.

Children may be placed in general residential care for the following reasons:

  • assessment of needs
  • attempts to keep a sibling group together
  • the provision of specialist supports or intensive interventions
  • the child’s own preference

Their care and behavioural needs being best catered for in a residential setting.

Tusla does not place children aged 12 years or younger in residential care barring exceptional circumstances.

The majority of children in care are matched to a suitable foster family or residential centre. But some children need specialist services, or their needs are better supported in other settings.

Aftercare Provision

The purpose of aftercare is to provide young people with a range of services to assist them with their needs as they transition into independent adult life. It is really important that assessment and care planning in consultation with a young person takes place prior to them leaving care.

The transition between care and aftercare can be challenging. The usual challenges of leaving home can occur, but often, the young person does not have a stable background to lean on for support. Some young people will also carry the impact of early difficulties.

It is possible that young people, on leaving care, will declare themselves independent of state services and be reluctant to engage with the service. This presents challenges to service providers.

Providing an appropriate aftercare service is of key importance for achieving positive outcomes for young people leaving care. It is essential that a young person receives the support that meets their specific needs and situation.

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