Children in care

The Child Care Act 1991 and the Child and Family Agency Act 2013 provide for the state care of children when this is in their best interest. You can find out more about this in the links below.

The Child and Family Agency (Tusla)

The Child and Family Agency (Tusla) is responsible for promoting the welfare of children who are not receiving adequate care. These responsibilities include:

  • Identifying children who are not receiving adequate care and protection, and coordinating relevant information.
  • Providing child care and family support services to help parents to care for their children where possible.
  • Applying to the Court for Care Orders where necessary, and arranging for the care of children through foster care or other arrangements.
  • Preparing annual reports on the adequacy of care that children are receiving.

Types of Care Orders

In some cases, a parent may agree to his or her child being taken into the care of Túsla. This is called voluntary care.

However, Tusla can also apply to the Court for Care Orders when it believes that children are at risk or in need of care. Information on the types of care orders that can be given is below.

Care Orders

Tusla can apply for a Care Order if it believes that a child needs care and protection that he or she is unlikely to receive without an order. This can be granted if the Court is satisfied that:

  • The child has been or is being ill-treated, neglected or abused or that the child's health, development or welfare has been or is likely to be impaired or neglected.
  • The child needs care and protection which he or she is unlikely to receive without a care order.

The Court can grant a Care Order for any length of time up to the age of 18. The Court can also grant an Interim Care Order lasting up to 29 days. While the Care Order is in force, Tusla has the rights and duties of a parent towards the child.

Emergency Care Orders

If An Garda Siochána believe that there is an immediate and serious risk to the health or welfare of a child, they can enter the family home and remove him or her to safety. That child must then be placed in the care of Tusla as soon as possible.

Tusla can apply for an Emergency Care Order when this has happened, or for a child who is still at home. The Court will grand the order if the judge is convinced that there is immediate and serious risk to the health or welfare of the child. An Emergency Care Order can last for up to eight days.

Special Care Orders

If a child’s behaviour poses a risk to his or her health, safety, development or welfare, Tusla can apply for a Special Care Order. A judge will grand a Special Care Order if he or she is convinced that:

  • The child's behaviour poses a real and substantial risk to his/her health, safety, development or welfare.
  • The child needs special care and protection which he/she is unlikely to get without such an order.

The Special Care Order authorises Tusla to provide appropriate care and treatment, detaining the child in a special care unit. A Court will initially grant a Special Care Order for a period of three to six months, which can be extended. The court can grant an Interim Special Care Order lasting for up to 28 days.

Supervision Orders

Instead of taking a child into care, Tusla can apply for a Supervision Order. This gives Tusla the authority to visit and monitor the health and welfare of a child, and to give advice to his or her parents. It can be granted for up to 12 months.

More information

You can find out more about the care system, and the ways that Tusla provides care to children, from the Citizens Information Website.

Tusla provides information on its work, and related information, through its own website.

If you or your family are affected by the issues raised above, you may wish to speak to a solicitor.

If you cannot afford the services of a solicitor, Free Legal Advice Centres (FLAC) provide free advice through nationwide clinics.