Role of Social Workers and Gardaí
Role of Tusla (Child and Family Agency) Social Workers
If a concern about a child’s welfare or protection is reported to Tusla by a parent or third party, a social worker will carry out an initial assessment of the needs of the family and individual children. The goal is to provide support so that parents can care safely and appropriately for the child and avoid more serious interventions later on. The social worker meets with the child privately as well as in the company of their parents, and may also meet the child’s teacher and other relevant professionals.
For more detailed information on social work procedures and practice please see page 43 of the Child Protection and Welfare Practice Handbook.
If Tusla considers that the child is in need of care and protection and is unlikely to receive it at home, the Agency has a duty to make sure the child receives appropriate care. Tusla may enter into care through a Voluntary Care agreement with the parents or through a court order (Emergency Care Order, Interim Care Order or Care Order).
When a decision is made by a parent, Tusla or the courts that a child will go into care, the allocated social worker carries out a full assessment of the child’s needs. From this assessment a care plan is developed. A range of professionals can be involved in the assessment in order to give a comprehensive statement on the child’s needs. The care plan determines the support and interventions needed with regard to the family situation where it is planned that a child will return home. The care plan will indicate the type of care placement most appropriate to the needs of the child and addresses education, health and contact with parents, guardians, siblings and extended family.
Care placements are designed to meet the needs of the child coming into care. It is necessary to have an allocated social worker for each child whose duties are:
- The preparation and review of care plans.
- Consulting the child and finding them an appropriate placement.
- Considering the wishes of the child and family.
- Addressing education placement and the health needs of the child.
- Visiting placements to make sure that the child’s needs are being met.
- Meeting with the child.
- Keeping a record /medical assessment.
- Working with the child, their family, carers and other significant persons and professionals with a view to planning for the child’s future.
Regulations and national standards require Tusla to ensure that all children in care have an allocated social worker and a care plan. See also actions 33 and 60 of the Ryan Implementation Plan 2009.
At the end of September 2018, Tusla reported that 91% of children in care had an allocated social worker and 90% had a written care plan.
Role of An Garda Síochána
An Garda Síochána has powers under the Child Care Act, 1991 to deliver a child into the custody of the Tusla where:
- They have reasonable grounds to believe that there is an immediate and serious risk to the health or welfare of the child.
- It would not be sufficient for the protection of the child from such immediate and serious risk to await the making of an application for an Emergency Care Order.
- A warrant has been issued for An Garda Síochána to search and deliver up a child.
Tusla must then apply for an Emergency Care Order within three days of receiving the child into its custody and care, unless they return the child to their parents.