Children can be placed in foster care in two ways: voluntarily (when a parent or family member asks Tusla for assistance) or by a court order (when a judge deems it in the best interest of the child to be placed in the care of Tusla).
Foster care can be provided by Tusla or by non-statutory, voluntary or private fostering agencies.
According to the most recent verified figures, from March 2019, there were 4,252 foster carers on the Panel of Approved Foster Carers in Ireland.
Further data relating to children in care can be found here.
There are several types of foster care that can be provided by both general and relative foster carers.
Some examples include:
When a child cannot live with his or her parents, either on a short or long-term basis, Tusla will seek a suitable relative or person known to the child to provide relative care.
Wherever possible, Tusla would consider relative care in the first instance to lessen disruption caused to the child’s life. Relative foster carers go through an assessment and approval process in a similar way to general foster carers. A small number of children in care are placed abroad with relatives who live outside the country if the case or situation requires it.
At the end of May 2019 26% of children in care were living with relative foster carers. 85% of these children had an allocated Social Worker and 80% had a written care plan.
When Tusla cannot find a suitable relative, or person known to the child, to provide relative care, they place a child in general foster care. A general foster carer is a person approved by Tusla, who completes a process of assessment and is placed on the panel of approved foster carers, to care for children in care.
Many of the children living in foster care have been with their foster families for most of their lives. Others have shorter placements, for example, if placed in care in an emergency while a care plan is being developed with long term plans.
At the end of May 2019 66% of children in care were in general foster care. 91% of these children had an allocated Social Worker and 82% had a written care plan.
The foster care allowance is currently €325 per week per child under 12 and €352 per week per child of twelve and over. When a young person between the ages of 18 and 21 is still in training or education, an Aftercare Allowance may be paid. More information is available on the Tusla website regarding the Standardised Aftercare Allowance.
The foster care allowance is exempt from taxation under the Finance Act 2005 and is not taken into account in the means test for social welfare payments.
More information can be obtained in the Child Care (Placement of Children in Foster Care) Regulations, 1995.
The Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) carries out inspections of foster care services against national standards. Inspection reports are available on the HIQA website.
The National Standards for Foster Care Services, were produced by the Department of Health and Children in 2003 and apply to foster care services provided under the Child Care (Placement of Children in Foster Care) Regulations, 1995 and the Child Care (Placement of Children with Relatives) Regulations, 1995.
A children's version of the standards has also been produced, called the Children's Book about Foster Care.
More information can be found in the Information Booklet on Foster Care in Ireland.