Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, is the statutory body with responsibility for child protection in Ireland. If I, or my officials, become aware of a situation in which a child is at risk, that risk is communicated to Tusla as a matter of urgency.
If a child appears to be at risk of harm or neglect, concerns should be reported to Tusla. Anyone can report a concern about a child to Tusla, and information on how to do so is available on the Tusla website. If a child is at immediate risk or in danger, the Gardaí should be alerted without delay.
Tusla act immediately on notification of an immediate risk to a child. Children who are in a situation of immediate risk may initially be dealt with by An Garda Síochána or by Tusla, but in the main both agencies work together in such cases. Tusla, when alerted to a child at immediate risk, for instance a young child left alone at home or abandoned, will contact AGS if the child needs to be removed from that situation.
Gardaí have specific powers under Section 12 of the Child Care Act to remove a child from a situation of danger, and under Section 13 of to deliver that child into the custody of Tusla. Tusla will at that point carry out an assessment to determine the child's needs. This may in some cases include applying for an Emergency Care Order. In all cases, a plan will be put in place to ensure that the child is safe from harm.
Tusla are implementing a child protection methodology, Signs of Safety, which has at its core the involvement of the child in any assessment and decision making process.
In 2015, the Children First Act placed key elements of the Children First National Guidance on a statutory basis. The Act provides for a number of key child protection required measures including mandated reporting of child protection concerns to the Child and Family Agency by designated persons, compliance with best practice in child protection as set out in the Children First Guidance, and development of an organisation-specific Child Safeguarding Statement. Organisations providing service to children are obliged to identify areas of risk to children in their services and to set out mitigating factors. The Safeguarding Statement is to be made available publicly.