A child can be received into voluntary care by Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, under Section 4 of the Child Care Act, 1991. This section allows Tusla to receive a child into care without a court order, and with the consent of the child's parents, when this is required for the child’s welfare or protection.
A voluntary care agreement may be appropriate in situations where a parent requires medical or other treatment, or for other reasons, for a time limited period. Social workers review a child in care's situation at statutory Child In Care Reviews, in consultation with the child's parents and other professionals. It is worth noting that annual figures for admissions and the length of time in care published by Tusla indicate that a significant number of children return home within the year of their being received into care. All of this serves to illustrate that there are the wide range of reasons and time frames for a child being in care.
My Department is not currently considering measures to reduce the number of children being received into the care of Tusla with the agreement of their parents, however, Tusla is expected, in line with best practice, to work co-operatively with parents with full cognisance of their rights as well as the best interests of their children.
Under a commitment given in Better Outcomes, Brighter Futures, the national framework for children and young people in Ireland, my Department has initiated work to review the Child Care Act 1991. All matters relevant to the situation of children in care, including the usage of voluntary care agreements, will be considered in the context of the Review.