Pathways into Care
Tusla may receive children into care through a voluntary agreement (voluntary care) with parents, or by way of a court order. Some children are received into care in a planned way, with parents working with the social worker, and a foster carer or residential staff to help the child settle into their new home. If the situation is an emergency, an Emergency Care Order may be used to take the child into care, with assessment and planning for their care occurring after they have been received into care.
This is where the parents request or agree to their child being taken into the care of Tusla. In these cases, Tusla must consider the parents' wishes on aspects of how care is provided. As long as a child requires safety and welfare - Tusla must provide this. If this arrangement breaks down, Tusla may still seek a Care Order through the Court.
Tusla reports that 32% of children admitted to care during 2017 were admitted under a voluntary care arrangement.
There are three different types of Court Order.
1. Emergency Care Order
Tusla can apply for an Emergency Care Order when there is reasonable cause to believe that there is an immediate and serious risk to the health or welfare of a child. An Emergency Care Order can be for a period of up to 8 days.
The Court Service Annual Report 2017 noted that the District Court received 309 applications for Emergency Care Orders in 2017.
2. Interim Care Order
Tusla applies to the Court for an Interim Care Order where an application for a Care Order has been or is about to made. This can be applied for 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 Tusla as the Care Order application comes to an end.
The limit on an Interim Care Order is 28 days; however, a Court can grant an extension to that period if it is satisfied it is still necessary.
The Court Service Annual Report 2017 noted that the District Court received 1,100 applications for Interim Care Orders in 2017.
3. Care Order
A Care Order is applied for when a child needs protection and is unlikely to receive it without the use of one. The Court may make a Care Order when:
a) The child has been or is being neglected, assaulted, ill-treated, or sexually abused;
b) Or the child’s health, development, or welfare has been or is being avoidably impaired or neglected; or
c) Or the child’s health, development or welfare is likely to be avoidably impaired or neglected.
A Care Order is usually made for as short a period as possible and this decision is made by the Court. However, if necessary the Court may decide to place a child in care up to their 18th birthday.
The Court Service Annual Report 2017 noted that the District Court received 934 applications for Care Orders in 2017.
A Supervision Order is granted by a District Court Judge and allows Tusla to visit and monitor the health and welfare of the child and to give the parents any necessary advice and support. The order is for up to a maximum of 12 months but can be renewed.
The Court Service Annual Report 2017 noted that there were 548 supervision orders made by the District Court in 2017.