Once a child has been received into care, by way of a voluntary agreement or a court order, the most crucial task for the social worker is to find a placement that matches that child's needs. Ideally this is with foster carers in the communities in which they live.
Social workers recruit foster carers on an ongoing basis and Tusla places over 91% of children in care in foster placements.
Tusla has access to foster carers who provide emergency placements out of working hours where children stay for a short period while an assessment is made regarding their need to be received into care.
A small minority of foster placements, circa 8%, are provided by private companies and these are in the main where the foster carers need significant support due to the needs of the child placed with them. Tusla approves all foster care applicants recruited by private companies.
Where a suitable placement cannot be found in foster care a child may be placed in a children’s residential services. The aim of such a placement is to provide a physically, emotionally and psychologically safe space for children to develop and move forward in their lives.
Where a child's behaviour is deemed a serious risk to themselves, Tusla may apply to the High Court for a place in a special care. Special care is a secure care placement (i.e. detention in a secure facility) for children with highly complex behavioural and emotional needs that cannot be met in foster or general residential care. Special care is intended as a short-term secure care placement in a therapeutic environment with the intention of returning the child to a community or family-based setting as soon as possible.
Special care is used to address the risk of harm that may be caused to a child’s life, health, safety, development or welfare by their behaviour.