Where a child is received into care, the first approach which is often considered is a voluntary care arrangement under Section 4 of the Child Care Act, 1991. The section places an obligation on Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, to take a child into care where it is unlikely that the child would receive the required care and protection in any other way. It allows Tusla to receive a child into care without a court order, on the condition that it is not against the wishes of the parent or guardian to use this approach.
A voluntary care agreement may be appropriate in situations such as when a parent requires medical or other treatment 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.
If it is not possible to reach an agreement with a parent or guardian, or the parent or guardian seeks to resume care of the child, it may be necessary for Tusla to seek a direction or an order from the Courts. The decision to make an application to the Courts is a serious step and Tusla makes every effort to identify supports or actions that could act as an alternate approach.
In light of this, I do not believe that steps are needed to reduce the numbers of children being received in to the voluntary care of Tusla with the agreement of their parents. My Department is undertaking a review of the Child Care Act 1991 and submissions on this aspect of the legislation are being considered.