Children in State Care
Anyone with a concern about a child’s safety or welfare should contact their local duty social work office. Details are available on the Tusla website.
1. Care Order Extensions
During the COVID-19 crisis a Judge will be available to sit in the Circuit Court to hear urgent applications which must be submitted to the relevant Circuit Court.
The District Court will hear urgent matters only. This includes the extension of care orders and interim care orders and emergency care orders and exceptional or urgent interim orders. Further details can be found on the Courts Service website.
Where a case does not fall under the defined urgent category, it can be treated as urgent if a good case is made. An email from the person seeking the intervention of the court, or their solicitor, setting out the reasons why the case should be considered urgent should be sent to the relevant court office. More information can be found on the Courts Service website.
During the COVID-19 crisis uncontested applications for extensions of Interim Care Orders can be made by solicitors for Tusla (The Child and Family Agency). The relevant documentation including sworn affidavits, written parental consent and guardian ad litem’s reports can be emailed to the relevant court office. If all necessary steps are followed, the Court can decide on the matter without requiring the attendance of the solicitor, any parties or the Guardian Ad Litem. If granted, the order will then be issued by the court office. This process is subject to review as the public health emergency develops. More details can be found on the Courts Service website.
2. Family Contact for Children in Care
In-person meetings with parents or legal guardians to discuss family visiting arrangements are considered to be non-essential during the COVID-19 crisis. However, these conversations can be had via telephone.
Before Tusla decide to cancel or continue planned contact with a child’s family they will consider –
- Travel to and from visits - this should be done by foster parents in order to limit the child’s contact with others
- Social distancing should apply throughout the visit in an age appropriate manner.
If these requirements can not be met contact must take the form of phone calls or facetime.
Where a visit must be supervised during the COVID-19 emergency, this can be done by foster carers in order to limit the child’s contact with others.
Family contact will mainly occur through phone calls, facetime and/or letters. If a visit has been cancelled this will be rearranged as soon as possible as contact must be maintained through other means such as phone calls and facetime.
Where Tusla believe contact is required for the wellbeing of the child, this can be done providing that it meets the requirements set out above.
Deciding if contact will continue will be assessed on a case to case basis and following a risk assessment. Further consideration will be given where a parent or foster carer has an underlying medical condition.
Before the contact is made, a phone assessment will be carried out to ensure there is no risk of contracting COVID-19. A number of factors must be considered before a visit can go ahead, all of which are listed on the Tusla website.
Where contact goes ahead, the visit must take place in non-public indoor areas where there is access to appropriate sanitisation. All surfaces should be cleaned before and after each visit. Visits in open area such as parks may also be considered. Additional restrictions which were recently imposed may limit scope for visits. However, you are permitted to leave the house for urgent family matters. Some circumstances may constitute this and may be allowed.
Staff members who are considered vulnerable are not advised to carry out visits. At risk categoriesare listed on the HSE website.
All the above measures are in accordance with HSE guidelines and may be subject to change.
3. Home Visits to Children and Families
This applies to Tusla staff who are providing a service to children in both foster and residential care during the current pandemic.
Where a Tusla service user has been told to self -isolate, they can not have visitors to their home. However, where there is a risk to children, Tusla can intervene. Where a visit during the COVID-19 crisis is necessary, the following applies -
- Prior to the visit Tusla will contact the service user in advance of the visit via telephone to establish the child’s current circumstances, the support network in place and the need for a visit at that time – questions that will be asked over the phone can be found on Tusla's website
- A remote risk assessment will take place in advance of the visit. Compliance with this assessment will be monitored by staff.
- During the visit precautions will be taken to limit the amount of contact with members of the family including but not limited to social distancing, regular hand washing and no physical contact with others. Tusla have set out a full list of such measures. Any items used during the visit must also be cleaned thoroughly with anti-bacterial spray or wipes.