Legislation regarding Children in Care
The primary legislation governing child care policy is the Child Care Act 1991. Under this Act the Health Service Executive (HSE) has a statutory duty to promote the welfare of children who are not receiving adequate care and protection. The definition of a child is a person under 18 years of age who is not or has not been married.
In cases where the HSE has serious concerns about a child's welfare and safety and /or parents are unable to cope due to illness or other serious problems parents may request or agree to their children being taken into the care of the HSE on a voluntary basis. In these cases while the HSE has care of the children it must consider the parents' wishes to aspects of how the care is provided. The HSE is obliged to provide care for these children for as long as their welfare requires it. It is estimated that 67% (2010 figures) of children in the care of the HSE are in voluntary care.
Court Orders under Child Care Act, 1991
In cases where the HSE has serious concerns for the care and wellbeing of a child, and where it is not suitable or the parent is not agreeable to a voluntary care arrangement, it may apply to the courts for a care order. These orders give the HSE a range of powers regarding care planning and care placements.
All care placements are designed to meet the assessed needs of the child coming into care. This requires each child to have an allocated a social worker whose statutory duties include:
- the preparation and review of care plans,
- finding appropriate placements for children
- consideration of the wishes of families
- addressing education placement and health needs of children
- visits to placements
- meeting with children
- working with children and their families with a view to planning the child’s future
The Child Care Act, 1991 provides that the HSE may apply to the Court for a supervision order. A supervision order is an alternative to children being taken into care and gives the HSE the authority to visit and monitor the health and welfare of the child and to give the parents any necessary advice. The order is for up to a maximum of 12 months but may be renewed.