Child Care cases are those where children have been placed into the care of the state, or where their care is being supervised by the state. The primary legislation regulating child care policy is the Child Care Act, 1991.
The Child and Family Agency (CFA), Tusla has a statutory duty to promote the welfare of children, under the age of 18, who are not receiving adequate care and protection.
While carrying out their duty, the CFA must:
- Take all necessary steps to identify children who are not receiving adequate care and protection.
- Regard the welfare of the child as the most important consideration, and where appropriate, give consideration to the wishes of the child.
- Take into account that it is generally in the best interests of a child to be brought up in their own family.
- Provide child care and family support services.
In some circumstances, where it appears that a child is not receiving adequate care or protection, the CFA must apply to the court for an order. This could be for a type of Care Order or a Supervision Order depending on the situation.
If the CFA is applying for, or has been granted, a child care order in relation to your child, we strongly recommend that you seek legal advice. There are also a number of support services that might be able to help you. Child Care law is complex and deals with serious issues that will affect your family and children.
Types of Child Care Orders
There are a number of different court orders that the CFA can apply for if they believe that a child is at risk or in need of care. Most Child Care Orders are made in the District Court but some are also made in the High Court. These orders give the CFA a wide range of powers including making decisions about the child's care, and organising access to the child for the parents or other relatives.
These orders are:
An Emergency Care Order
Where a judge believes that there is an immediate and serious risk to a child, they may grant an Emergency Care Order. An Emergency Care Order places a child in the care of the CFA for a period of not more than 8 days. This order can be made without notice being given to the parents or guardians of the child.
An Emergency Care Order cannot be renewed.
A Care Order
A Care Order allows a child to be removed from the care of the parents or guardians, and to be placed in the care of the CFA. A care order can be made for a specific amount of time or until the child is 18 years old.
A judge will grant a Care Order if they are satisfied that:
- The child has been or is being assaulted, ill-treated, neglected or sexually abused, or
- The child's health, development or welfare has been or is likely to be impaired or neglected, and
- The child requires care or protection which they are unlikely to receive unless the court makes the Care Order.
A Care Order can be renewed.
An Interim Care Order
If the CFA have applied for a Care Order, they can apply for an Interim Care Order before the hearing of the Care Order application.
If an Interim Care Order is granted, the child is placed into the care of the CFA for a period of not more than 28 days, unless the parties agree to a longer period.
An Interim Care Order can be extended, this is known as an Extension of an Interim Care Order.
A Special Care Order
The High Court can grant a Special Care Order if it is satisfied that:
- The child is at least 11 years old
- The behaviour of the child poses a risk of harm to their life, health, safety, development or welfare, and
- The child needs special care that they are unlikely to receive unless the court makes the Special Care Order.
If a Special Care Order is granted, the child is placed in the CFA's care for a specific period of time not more than 3 months, however, this period can be extended. The order allows the CFA to provide appropriate care, education, treatment, and if required to provide this, to detain the child in a special care unit.
Interim Special Care Orders can be made before the hearing of a Special Care Order. If an Interim Special Care Order is made, the child may be detained in a special care unit for up to 28 days.
A Supervision Order
A Supervision Order allows the CFA to supervise a child's care. The child is not removed from their home while a Supervision Order is in place. A Supervision Order allows the CFA to visit and monitor the child, and to give advice to the child's parents or guardians.
A Supervision Order will be for a specific period of time, but not more than 12 months. In some cases, the CFA may apply for a further Supervision Order on or before the initial order expires.
Representation for the Child
When making decisions, the court must ensure that the welfare of the child is of the greatest importance.
In some cases a Judge may make a child a party to the proceedings and appoint a solicitor to represent the child. The CFA will pay these legal costs.
In some cases where the child is not a party to the proceedings, a judge may appoint a "Guardian ad Litem" to speak for the child. A Guardian ad Litem is an independent person who is qualified and experienced in working with children. The Guardian ad Litem will inform the court of the wishes and interests of the child. Any costs incurred by the Guardian ad Litem will be covered by the CFA.
Appealing a Child Care Order
If you are not happy with a decision or order, you have the right to appeal. Most Child Care Orders are made in the District Court. An appeal from the District Court is heard in the Circuit Court which is the next highest court jurisdiction.
You might want to get legal advice to better understand the process.