Pathway into Care
Children may be placed in the care of the Child and Family Agency by way of a voluntary agreement (voluntary care) with the parent(s) and the Agency or by way of an Emergency Care Order, Interim Care Order or Care Order granted by the Court. Some children are received into care in a planned way, with a parent(s) working with the social worker and foster carer or residential staff to help the child settle into their new home. Other children come into care in emergency circumstances by way of an Emergency Care Order and assessment and planning for their care occurs after they are in care.
The Child Care Act, 1991 provides for parents to request or agree to their children being taken into the care of the Child and Family Agency on a voluntary basis. In these cases, while the Agency has care of the children it must consider the parents' wishes to aspects of how the care is provided. The Agency is obliged to provide care for these children for as long as their safety and welfare requires it. The Agency may apply to the court for an Emergency Care Order, an Interim Care Order or Care Order if they consider this to be in the best course of action for the child.
The HSE reports that of the children in care in December 2012, 42% were there under a voluntary care order.
Emergency Care Order
Under the Child Care Act, 1991 the Child and Family Agency may apply for an Emergency Care Order where there is reasonable cause to believe that there is an immediate and serious risk to the health or welfare of a child or where there is a risk that the child may be removed from the place that the child is currently residing. An Emergency Care Order may be for a period of up to 8 days. The Court Service Annual Report 2013 noted that 414 Emergency Care Orders were granted by the Courts in 2013.
Interim Care Order
The Child Care Act, 1991 provides for the Child and Family Agency to apply to the Court for an Interim Care Order where an application for a Care Order has been or is about to made. The Interim Care Order can be applied regardless of whether an Emergency Care Order is in place, and where there is reasonable cause to believe that it is necessary for the child’s health or welfare for the child to be placed or maintained in the care of the Agency and/or pending the determination of the application for a Care Order. An Interim Care Order may be made for a period not exceeding 28 days however a Court can grant an extension(s) to that period if the Court is satisfied that the grounds for making the Interim Care Order remain. The Court Service Annual Report 2013 noted that 4,993 Interim Care Orders (including extension of interim care orders) were made by the Courts in 2012.
It is reported by the HSE that during 2012, 27% (n=542) of children were admitted to care by way of an Emergency Care Order or Interim Care Order
The Child and Family Agency may apply under the Child Care Act, 1991, for a Care Order in respect of a child which requires care or protection, which he/she is unlikely to receive unless an order is made. The Court may make a Care Order when it is satisfied that a child has been or is being neglected, assaulted, ill-treated, or sexually abused; or the child’s health, development, or welfare has been or is being avoidably impaired or neglected; or the child’s health, development or welfare is likely to be avoidably impaired or neglected. A care order places a child in the care of the Agency for so long as he/she remains a child or for a shorter period as determined by the Court.