Residential care provides a safe and nurturing environment for individual children and young people who cannot live at home, or in an alternative family environment, such as foster care. Residential care can be provided by statutory (Tusla), voluntary (not for profit) or private providers.
Approximately 6% of children in care are in a residential placement.
There are two primary forms of residential care: Children Residential Centres and Special Care units. These units are usually based in a local community and have a small number of children living them.
Children may be placed in general residential care for the following reasons:
- Assessment of needs;
- Attempts to keep a sibling group together;
- The provision of specialist supports or intensive interventions;
- The child’s own preference;
- Their care and behavioural needs being best catered for in a residential setting.
Tusla does not place children aged 12 years or younger in residential care barring exceptional circumstances.
Children Residential Centres
Children Residential Centres are often domestic homes in housing estates, in villages, towns and cities, and occasionally in rural areas. The centres typically have between 2 to 6 children, usually in their teens. The children attend local schools and take part in local sporting and community activities. A shift system is in place and each young person is allocated a key worker.
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. Research suggests that long term outcomes for children in the care system are best when they return home relatively quickly or are provided with a long term permanent option.
Tusla Children Residential Centres are inspected by the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) against the National Standards for Children’s Residential Centres and the inspection reports are published on an anonymised basis on the HIQA website. Children Residential Centres run by voluntary or private operators are registered and inspected by Tusla against the national standards, and published on the Tusla website.
At the end of September 2018, 6% of the 6,072 children in care were placed in Children Residential Centres. 96% of these children had an allocated social worker and 95% had a written care plan.
Special Care is intended to be short-term, stabilising and safe care in a secure therapeutic environment, which aims to enable a child to return to a less secure placement as soon as possible based on need. A placement in Special Care requires an order from the High Court.
Special Care Units differ from general residential care in a number of ways: the Units are secure, the child is detained, they offer higher staff to young person ratios, education is on-site and there is specialised input such as psychology services. The child is not detained as a result of criminal offences, but for their own safety and welfare.
There are currently four Special Care Units and all are being operated by Tusla. They are:
- Ballydowd, Dublin – a mixed gender Unit
- Crannóg Nua, Dublin – a mixed gender Unit
- Coovagh House, Limerick – a mixed gender Unit
- Gleann Alainn, Cork – a female Unit
Tusla indicated to HIQA that it is intended to cease using Gleann Alainn as a Special Care Unit in the near future.
At the end of September 2018, Tusla reported that 13 children were resident in Special Care Units, representing 0.2% of the 6,072 children in care. All children in Special Care had an allocated social worker and all had a written care plan.
Special Care Units are currently inspected by HIQA under Section 69 of the Child Care Act, 1991 and inspection reports are published on their website. HIQA published new National Standards for Special Care Units in March 2015.
New Regulations for Special Care Units came into effect at the start of 2018.
The majority of children in care are matched to a suitable foster family or residential centre. But some children need specialist services, or their needs are better supported in other settings.
As of the end of September 2018, 98 children were in an “Other” care placement. This was less than 2% of all children in care. 98% of these children had an allocated social worker and 95% had a written care plan.
Some examples of “Other Care Placements” include:
- Children who may be at home on a care order under supervision as part of a plan for them to return to their family home.
- Young people placed in supported lodgings;
- Placement in a residential centre for young people with a disability.
Out of State Secure
Tusla seeks to place children with complex needs within Ireland; but in some limited circumstances children are placed abroad where their specific needs can be met. These children often present with a complex range of needs due to injury, accident or childhood experiences. The needs of a child are prioritised over the location of the placement when seeking such specialist services.
Other Out of State Placements
At times children may be placed with specialised foster carers or a residential placement out of state. If necessary, children can also be placed with relatives living in another country.
Children placed abroad remain in the care of the State, have an allocated social worker who visits them in their placement, and have a care plan which is reviewed within the statutory framework.
At the end of September 2018, 20 children in care were in an out of state placement.
This was 0.4% of all children in care.
Further data relating to children in care can be found here.