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Children in Care - What Happens?

Introduction

When children are placed in care, a number of decisions will be made in relation to where they will live, their ongoing education, the supports that they will receive and the contact that they will have with their families. These decisions are documented in the child’s Care Plan.

 

Care Plan

The Care Plan is prepared by the placing of an allocated social worker in advance of the child coming into care whether it is by voluntary agreement or court ordered and is a statutory requirement for the compliance with Regulations for children in all types of care placements. The Care Plan is an agreed written plan, drawn up in consultation with the child, his or her family and all those involved with his or her care, for the current and future care of the child, which is designed to meet his or her needs. It establishes short, medium and long term goals for the child and identifies the services required to attain these goals. The Regulations and National Standards require specified actions to be recorded with appropriate timescales and the names of those responsible for fulfilling them. 
 
On 31st May 2014, the Child and Family Agency reported that 89% (no=5,772/6,517) of children in care had a written care plan as defined by the 1995 Child Care Regulations

Further data relating to children in care is contained here.
Snap shot of monthly and quarterly data is available here.

The Agency is working to improve this figure to ensure all children have a care plan. Progress in this area is monitored by the DCYA.

Care Placement

Children may be placed in foster care (relative foster care or general foster care), residential care, high support and special care or out of state and other placement types. The type of care placement will depend on the identified needs of the child as set out in their care plan.

Placement Stability

For some children they may experience a couple of placement moves when they first enter care as they may have been admitted to an emergency placement and following assessment move to a stable placement.  From time to time foster carers may have to terminate a placement due to personal or family reasons, or because they find themselves unable to cope with a child.

The HSE note that placement stability is of key importance in gauging the quality of care services and is central to determining successful long term outcomes. In December 2012, the HSE report that 172 children in care were in their third placement within 12 months, representing 2.7% of the overall number of children in care. In England, the figure is 11% (n=7,380/67,050) and for Wales the figure is 9.1% (n=524/5,726) for the same period, demonstrating that placement in Ireland is substantially more stable than for children in care in England and Wales. 

Number of children in care x length of stay (Dec 2012)

                                               Number                                                   Percentage

Length of stay

Region

Less than one 5 year

One to 5 years

More than 5 years

Less than one  year

One to 5 years

More than years

Total

Dublin Mid-Leinster

224

692

626

14.5%

44.9%

40.6%

1,542

Dublin North East

229

597

648

15.5%

40.5%

44.0%

1,474

South

419

933

593

21.5%

48.0%

30.5%

1,945

West

279

620

472

20.4%

45.2%

34.4%

1,371

National

1,151

2,842

2,339

18.2%

44.9%

36.9%

6,332

 


The HSE reported that in December 2012, of the 6,332 children in care, 1,151 (18.2%) had been in care for less than a year, 2,842 (44.9%) had been in care for one to five years and 2,339 children (36.9%) had been in care for more than five years. It is emphasised that generally it is not good practice for a child to be in residential care for five years or more. Research suggests that the age of entry and the speed of action to either return the child home or find long term permanency options are critical in achieving optimal outcomes for children in the care system. 

Contact with Families

While a child is in Care it is important that they are able to maintain contact with their family, unless of course that it would not be in their best interests. Sometimes it is helpful/ necessary for the social worker to provide supervision or support during access visits. The views of the child are taken into account when contact is being planned. The Child Care Regulations and national standards set out clearly the rights and responsibilities of the Child and Family Agency and the parent(s) or guardian(s) in all matters in regard to contact. If there is a disagreement about contact the matter can be brought to the Court for a decision.

Education While in Care

At end of December 2012 the number of children in care (aged 6 - 16 years incl.) was 4,281 (67.6%). At the end of December 2012 the number and % of children in full time education (aged 6 -16 years incl.) was 4,110 (96.0%).

Empowering People in Care

Empowering People in Care (EPIC) (formerly known as the Irish Association for Young People in Care) is an independent association that works throughout Ireland, with and for children and young people who are currently in care or who have had an experience of living in care. This includes those in foster care, residential care, high support and special care. EPIC also works with young people preparing to leave care and in aftercare.
 
The Child and Family Agency and the Irish Youth Justice Service are required to ensure that all young people in care and in schools are made aware of the work of EPIC and to support children should they wish to contact or become involved with the service.

Leaving Care

Children who are in care may return to the care of their parent(s) based on the social work assessment and/or court decision and this may form part of the child’s care plan. The family and child may still receive ongoing support services from the social worker and/or other organisations. Other young people may require continued assistance and support in their transition to independent living. This support is called aftercare. The HSE provided information that at the end of December 2012, there were 1,073 young people aged 18 to 21 year olds in receipt of an aftercare service.

Further data relating to children in care is contained here.
Snap shot of monthly and quarterly data is available here.

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