Children in the Care of the State

In exceptional cases, the State - through the offices of the Child and Family Agency (CFA) - has an obligation to intervene in the autonomy of the family in order to safeguard the welfare of the child(ren). Such intervention can be with the consent of the parent, parents or guardians, or alternatively following an order of the courts. When a child is placed in the care of the State, the form that care and intervention will take will be directed by the social workers and/or the courts.

The governing laws set out the four possible accommodation arrangements for a child being placed in the care of the State and the CFA can choose one or more of these as is necessary for the most appropriate care for the child:

(a) Place the child with foster parents

(b) Place the child in residential care

(c) Where eligible, place the child with a suitable person with a view to his/her adoption

(d) Such other suitable arrangements (which may include placing the child with a relative) as the CFA thinks appropriate.

Citizens Information has a useful resource explaining the role and functions of the CFA.

Foster Care 

Foster care is typically categorised in two ways: foster care and foster care with relatives.

Foster care involves a person other than a relative of a child, taking care of the child on behalf of the CFA, whereas foster care with relatives, as the name suggests, is the placing of a child by the State in the care of a relative of that child.

The CFA is required to establish and maintain a panel of persons who are willing to act as foster parents. In order to qualify for inclusion on the panel of prospective foster parents, applicants must furnish the CFA with the following evidence of suitability:

(i) a written report from a registered medical practitioner on the state of their health;

(ii) the names and addresses of two referees who are not related to them and with whom the board may consult;

(iii) all necessary authorisations to allow the CFA to establish in consultation with An Garda Síochána, whether any convictions exist against the applicant or their family; and

(iv) such other information as the board may reasonably require.

Furthermore, an assessment of the suitability of the prospective foster parent(s) and their home must be carried out by an authorised person.

Long-term foster care

Following a successful court application, a long-term foster parent or relative with whom the child has been placed for a period of at least 5 years, can be permitted to act as necessary in respect of the best interests of the child, and can be accorded the legal capacity to give consent in respect of medical and other procedures.

Residential Care

Residential care can be a residential home run by the CFA, an authorised children’s residential centre, a school, or other suitable accommodation.

Click here for information on Residential Care.

Special Care Units

The State is obliged to apply for a Special Care Order in the District Court, 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. The effect of a Special Care Order is to commit the child to the care of the CFA and it authorises the HSE to provide appropriate care, education and treatment for the child, and for that purpose, to place and detain the child in a special care unit provided by or on behalf of the HSE. Under the Special Care Order, the child is 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). 

Family Law Information Research Group

School of Law, Áras na Laoi, University College Cork,

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