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Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth | Monitoring the treatment of children in residential care, fosterage, or those placed with a guardian by Court Order to ensure their welfare and well-being

To ask the Minister for Children; Equality; Disability; Integration and Youth the extent to which his Department continues to monitor the treatment of children in residential care or fosterage, or those placed with a guardian by Court Oder, with particular reference to the need to ensure their welfare and well-being on follow-up in relation to issues of any concern; and if he will make a statement on the matter.


At the end of 2022, which is the latest data published by Tusla, there were 5,759 children in the care of the State. Of these, 89% (5,112) of children in care were in foster care (general and relative) and 7.6% (439) were in a residential (general and special care) placement.

Both Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, and my Department are committed to promoting safe and high quality practice in all areas of Alternative Care. This is achieved through the application of Regulations and Standards that govern the placement of children and young people.

The Child Care Act 1991 is the statutory framework for child welfare and protection in Ireland. The legislation places a statutory duty on Tusla to promote the welfare of children who are not receiving adequate care and protection. It sets the legislative provisions in relation to taking children into care, and the responsibilities of the Sate in that regard, which aim to improve outcomes for looked after children.

The placement of children in Residential Care is governed by the National Standards for Children’s Residential Centres 2018, and underpinned by the Child Care (Placement in Residential Care) Regulation 1995, and the Child Care (Standards in Children’s Residential Centres) 1996. The placement of children in Special Care is governed by the National Standards for Special Care Units 2014, as well as the Health Act 2007 (Care and Welfare of Children in Special Care Units) Regulations 2017, Health Act 2007 (Care and Welfare of Children in Special Care Units) (Amendment) Regulations 2018, and the Health Act 2007 (Registration of Designated Centres) (Special Care Units) Regulations 2017.

HIQA carries out announced and unannounced inspections of statutory Children’s Residential Centres and Special Care units. HIQA carry out these inspections against the identified Regulations and Standards. Tusla is the statutory regulator of Private and Voluntary Children’s Residential Centres, and is therefore responsible for the registration and inspection of these centres in accordance with Regulations, standards, and the relevant provisions of the Child Care Act 1991.

The foregoing sets out the safeguards are in place with regard to all placements of children in residential and special care. Tusla in discharging its statutory responsibilities under the Child Care Acts must have the best interests of the child as its paramount consideration. It actively monitors every placement of every child in care to ensure its appropriateness to the needs of that child, and any concerns or breaches of standards or Regulations are addressed in this context.

The Child Care (Placement of Children in Foster Care) Regulations, 1995 sets out that in any matter relating to placing of a child in foster care, or the review of the case of a child in foster care, a health

board shall, having regard to the rights and duties of parents, whether under the Constitution or otherwise, regard the welfare of the child as the first and paramount consideration, and in so far as is practicable, give due consideration, having regard to his or her age and understanding, to the wishes of the child.

HIQA is authorised under Section 69 of the Child Care Act 1991 as amended by Section 26 of the Child Care (Amendment) Act 2011 to inspect foster care services provided by the Child and Family Agency and to report on its findings. HIQA monitors foster care services against the National Standards for Foster Care, published in 2003.

These standards set out management and monitoring of foster care services. Systems are in place to ensure that resources are matched to the needs of children who require out-of-home placement and provide a range of services including residential care and foster care.

All children in foster care are registered in compliance with statutory requirements contained within Article 12 of the Child Care (Placement of Children in Foster Care) Regulations 1995 and Article 12 of the Child Care (Placement of Children with Relatives) Regulations 1995.

Tusla gathers and analyses information about their foster care services to enable them to monitor the number and type of available foster placements and the level of unmet need. The systems also gather information on foster care reviews, foster care placement breakdowns, children awaiting foster placements in other care arrangements, complaints and allegations.

Children First: National Guidance for the Protection and Welfare of Children sets out the steps which should be taken to ensure that children and young people are protected from harm. This also outlines the roles of the main statutory bodies involved in child welfare and protection: Tusla – Child and Family Agency, and An Garda Síochána. The guidance is just one of the resources available to assist with child protection and Tusla have a number of additional child protection and safeguarding information resources.

In regards to care orders, children are only removed from their home setting when Tusla has formed the view that, at least for the time being, their health, development or well-being cannot otherwise be ensured. There are a number of ways in which a child may come into the care of Tusla. Section 4 of the Child Care Act allows for a child to be taken into the care of Tusla on a voluntary basis for a determined period of time without the need for a care order, subject to the agreement and wishes of the parent. Where agreement is not possible, Tusla may apply to the courts for one of a number of care orders to ensure the safety and well-being of the child concerned.

The Child Care Act 1991 provides the legislative basis to remove a child from their family environment, following a successful application for a care order to a Court. The Act specifies the different types of care order, which will determine the type and duration of the subsequent alternative care placement. These include Emergency Care Orders, Interim Care Orders, Care Orders and Special Care Orders. The conditions required for a court to make a Care Order in respect of a child are specified in Part IV of the Act.

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