What are the rights of a child while in foster care in Ireland?
No matter what age, a child has the right to be protected from all forms of abuse and/or exploitation. There are various groups and agencies that are established to provide support, guidance and supervision for children who are vulnerable.
Children in State care
State care means that the Child and Family agency Tusla get involved if it decides that a young person is not being properly cared for at home. Usually the Child and Family Agency will take all of the important decisions such as the kind of care needed and where a young person should live. If a young person is placed in foster care, the foster carers will be in charge of the day-to-day decisions affecting the child’s life.
The rights of the child when taken into State care
Tusla has a duty to make sure that any decisions about a child’s care are made in the child’s best interests. Every child in care must be given access to a social worker who is employed by the Child and Family Agency. It is a social worker’s duty to draw up a care plan and put it According to the Department of Health and Children’s document ‘National Standards of Foster Care.’ the rights of a child in foster care are as follows:
- Children are provided with personal care appropriate to their age, stage of development, gender, culture, ethnicity, religion, and individual needs.
- Children are enabled to be independent, consistent with their age, stage of development and individual needs.
- Children are facilitated to have undisturbed contact with family and friends, unless there are clear reasons not to do so.
- Children’s correspondence and personal effects are respected.
- Children have age-appropriate opportunities to be alone.
- Children are encouraged and enabled to develop their abilities, aptitudes, skills and interests.
- Children are consulted and heard in all decisions about their care and their views are given due weight in accordance with their age, stage of development and individual
- Consistent with their age, stage of development and individual needs, children have access to information about services available to them and information held on their case files in order to form opinions and exercise choice. They are facilitated to correct any inaccuracies in the information held on their files and given appropriate support when accessing sensitive information.
- Children are encouraged to exercise choice across a range of daily activities such as buying clothes, saving and spending money, and hobbies.
- Children are told about the complaints procedure, given a written copy of it in an age-appropriate format and assisted, where necessary, to make a complaint about their care. Their complaints are taken seriously and, in the first instance, dealt with locally and promptly.
What is a care plan?
Before a child is placed in care, a social worker must prepare a care plan which must state:
- The aims of the care plan;
- The support the Child and Family Agency will give the child, their foster carers and in some cases the parents;
- The access arrangements made between the child and their parent(s)/relative(s) or anyone else who has the right to be in contact with the child;
- The review date of the care plan.
The role of the HSE while a child is in care
The HSE’s responsibilities include:
1. deciding where a child will live and who will look after them;
2. visiting the child regularly to make sure they are being cared for properly;
3. helping the parents and carers to work together in the interests of the child;
4. helping a parent to keep in touch with their child.
The HSE has a Child Care Approvals Committee that approves all foster carers.
What is the role of a foster carer?
The main role of a foster carer is to care for a child for as long as the HSE decides. The HSE must be satisfied that the foster carer(s) are looking after the child properly and allowing the parent to be as involved as possible in their child’s life.
According to the website www.fosteringfirstireland.ie the following checks will be carried out prior to establishing a person’s rights to become a foster carer:
1. Garda clearance checks
2. Child and Family Agency address checks
3. A standard safety check on the potential foster home
4. Employment references
5. School references
6. Overseas address references
7. Financial stability checks
8. Health checks
They also state that additional training, support and specialist equipment will be provided for those caring for a child with special educational needs or a disability.
In Ireland, there are currently over 6,000 children and young people in care and almost 90% of these are living with foster carers.
There are all sorts of reasons why children need foster care. Sometimes it’s because of a family illness, relationship problems, family breakdown or a situation where their welfare is threatened.
Many of these children will have experienced neglect and physical, emotional or sexual abuse and all will have faced loss and separation from their birth family.
Fostering is caring for someone else’s child in your own home, providing family life for a child or young person, who for one reason or another cannot live with his or her own parents.
Foster care is only considered for children in situations where they are assessed to be at risk.
The State’s responsibility to safeguard and promote the welfare of children whose parents fail in their duty falls to the Child and Family Agency by virtue of the Child Care Act 1991.
The 1991 Act confers both a statutory power and duty upon the Child and Family Agency to protect children and promote their welfare.