The Child Welfare and Protection Policy Unit is responsible for the formulation and monitoring of policies in relation to foster care.
Foster care is the main form of alternative care provided by the HSE for children in need of care and protection who cannot remain in their own homes. In 2011, the HSE reported that at 31st December 2011 there were 6,160 children in care with just over 90% (no=5, 564) placed in foster care. The HSE provided information at the end of January 2013 that there were 639 young people aged 18 years and over in foster care.
More data regarding children in foster care
Snap shot quarterly data on children in foster care
Relative Foster Care
When a child cannot live with his or her parents either on a short or long-term basis, the HSE will, in the first instance, seek a suitable relative or person known to the child to provide relative care. Relative foster carers go through an assessment and approval, in a similar way to general foster carers. A small number of children in care are placed abroad with relatives who live outside the country.
Of the 5,568 children living in foster care in 2011, the HSE reported that just over 30% (no=1,780) were living with relative foster carers.
General Foster Care
Where the HSE cannot find a suitable relative or person known to the child to provide relative care, the HSE where possible, will place a child in foster care. Many children living in foster care have been living with their foster families for most of their lives. Others have shorter placements, for instance if placed in care in an emergency, while a care plan is being developed with long term plans
Interested in Becoming a Foster Carer
Categories of Foster Care
The Foster Care Panel may approve a foster for one or more of the following categories of foster care;
• Short Term
• Long Term
• Sibling Group
Foster Care Allowance
The foster care allowance is currently €325 per week per child under 12 and €352 per week per child of twelve and over.
The foster care allowance is exempt from taxation under the Finance Act 2005. The foster care allowance is currently not reckonable as income in relation to eligibility for the medical card, disability allowance, disability benefit, unemployment assistance and unemployment assistance. Please see Foster Care Regulations 1995 for more information.
Increased Autonomy of Foster Carers
The Child Care (Amendment) Act, 2007 was commenced on the 23rd July 2007. Section 4 of the Act inserts new sections 43A and 43B into the Act of 1991 to provide that a foster parent or a relative who has had a child in their care for a continuous period of five years, may apply for a court order for increased autonomy in relation to the care of the child.
The order gives such foster carers increased autonomy in relation to issues including consenting to medical treatment and the issue of passports and other day to day care issues, e.g., giving permission for children or young people to go on a school tour or attend a concert. The Executive continues to have a statutory role in the care of children in respect of whom the new court orders are granted, as set out in the Child Care Act, 1991 and the Child Care Regulations, 1995.
The HSE must give consent before the Court grants an order. The child’s parent(s) or a person acting in loco parentis must be notified and/or must give consent as appropriate.
An order granted under Section 4 of this Act, may be varied or discharged on application to the court. An order granted under Section 4 of the Act, ceases to have effect, if the child is no longer in the care of the Health Service Executive, if the child is removed from the care of the foster parents, on the request of the foster parent, and on the child’s 18th birthday.
The Report of the Working Group on Foster Care published in 2001 ‘Foster Care: A Child-Centred Partnership' set the overarching policy for foster care and looked at the following issues:
- meeting the needs of children in foster care;
- meeting the needs of children with additional needs in foster care;
- helping foster carers meet the children’s needs;
- placement of children with relative foster carers;
- providing safe care for children in foster care; and
- future organisation and management of the foster care service.
In line with a key recommendation of the above report, the National Standards for Foster Care and an accompanying children’s version that were published by the Department of Health have a major role to play in clearly setting out how foster care placements should be supported and that children in foster care are receiving the best possible care. Every foster carer and child in foster care should be provided with a copy of the Standards from the HSE.
Please note foster care is regulated by Child Care Regulations, 1995.
Inspections of Foster Care Services
The Health Information and Quality Authority Social Services Inspectorate undertakes inspections of foster care services against national standards. The inspection reports are published on the HIQA website.
Irish Foster Care Association
The Irish Foster Care Association(IFCA) offers support and information to its members and keeps them up to date with regard to changes in practice in relation to foster care. IFCA has developed training programmes for the training of prospective foster carers and training modules for the in-service training of active fostering families, social workers, child care workers and other HSE personnel. For more information on the role of IFCA please visit www.ifce.ie.