Children in Care

The Child Care Act 1991 requires the Child and Family Agency (otherwise known as ‘Tusla’) to intervene to protect the welfare of children who are not receiving adequate care and protection. This intervention is limited to exceptional circumstances, as the governing laws expressly acknowledge the principle that it is generally in the best interests of a child to be brought up in his/her own family.

State Intervention

Where the welfare of a child is in danger or there are suspicions of child abuse, the state is required to intervene to protect the child. The state can intervene through a range of court orders which typically involve the child being taken into state care. The order made will reflect the extent of the intervention required to protect the welfare and wellbeing of the child(ren) in need of care.

Voluntary Care Order

This order involves the child being removed from the home by the Child and Family Agency (CFA), and taken into the care of the State, with the express consent of the child’s parents. When a parent wishes to resume care of the child, the CFA is obliged to return the child to the care of his/her parents. Voluntary Care Orders can arise where parents are ill or have recognised addiction problems.

Care Order

A Care Order results in a child being removed from the care of his/her parent(s) and taken into the care of the state. This can be a temporary or permanent order. The granting of a full time Care Order results in a child being placed in the care of the CFA until he/she reaches the age of 18 or for a shorter period of time.

Interim Care Order

An Interim Care Order allows a child to be taken into the care of the State on a temporary basis. This order can be granted whilst waiting for a full Care Order to be made by the court. Under an Interim Care Order, the child remains in care for a maximum of 28 days but this may be extended.

Special Care Order

The CFA must apply for a Special Care Order (or an Interim Special Care Order) where a child needs special care and protection in cases where the child’s behaviour poses a risk to him/herself, and he/she is unlikely to get the special care required unless such an order is made. This order results in the child being placed in the care of the CFA for as long as the order is in force (for a period of 3-6 months but this may be extended). This order allows the CFA to detain the child in a special care unit in order to provide appropriate care, education, and treatment. Interim Special Care Orders (which can last for a maximum of 28 days but may be extended) can be granted by the court whilst waiting for the determination of a Special Care Order application.

Emergency Care Order

Where there is an immediate and serious risk to the health or welfare of the child, the Gardaí and the CFA can intervene to protect a child and seek whatever orders are immediately necessary in order to protect the needs and welfare of the child. Under an Emergency Care Order, the child can remain in care for a maximum of 8 days. If the risk to the child cannot wait until an Emergency Care Order is made, the Gardaí can remove a child from the home by force (if necessary) to safety.

Supervision Order

A Supervision Order is an alternative to state care where the child is not removed from the home or the family. This less intrusive approach permits the CFA to regularly visit the child in its home in order to monitor the health and welfare of the child and also to provide advice and support for the parents. This order lasts for a maximum of 12 months but it may be renewed.

Further Information

  • The Tusla website explains what behaviour constitutes child abuse. 
  • More broadly, the Citizens Information service provides an overview of the key issues arising where children are placed in the care of the State.


Organisation Telephone Email Website Address

The Legal Aid Board

Tel:+353 (0)66 947 1000  

Locall: 1890 615 200 The Legal Aid Board, Quay Street, Caherciveen, Kerry

Free Legal Advice Centres

+353 (0)1 8745690 13 Lower Dorset Street, Dublin 1

Family Mediation Service

+353 (0)1 6344320 Family Mediation Service, 1st Floor, St. Stephen’s Green House, Earlsfort Terrace, Dublin 2
Citizens Information 0761 07 4000  
Barnardos 1850 222 300 Christchurch Square, Dublin 8

University College Cork

Coláiste na hOllscoile Corcaigh

College Road, Cork T12 K8AF