Written Answers. - Residential and Foster Care.

Hugh Byrne

Ceist:

72 Mr. H. Byrne asked the Minister for Health if his attention has been drawn to the differential amount of payment to foster parents and the cost of keeping a child in residential care; the reason for this discrepancy; and his views on whether a child with foster parents will fare better than a child in care; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8882/96]

,Limerick East): I am aware that the cost to the State of keeping a child in residential care is considerably greater than the cost of foster care. The main reason for the difference is the cost of employing professionally trained staff to care for children on a 24 hour basis.

There are at present approximately 3,000 children in the care of health boards, of which over 75 per cent are in foster care. Decisions on the most appropriate care options for children are a matter of professional judgment taking into account the needs and wishes of individual children. Whereas it is generally recognised that foster care is the preferable option in relation to the care of vulnerable children, there are children for whom foster care is not a suitable option. Because the needs of children in residential care and foster care are different, it is not possible to compare the outcome of care in respect of either setting.
In recognition of the valuable contribution of foster parents to the care of children in need of care, I was pleased to increase recently the foster care allowance to £60 per child per week in respect of children aged 12 years and over, with effect from 1 March of this year. Subject to availability of resources, I intend to continue to increase the level of allowances next year.