The provision of fostering services is a matter for Tusla (the Child and Family Agency). This includes any supports, including financial supports, that are required by either the foster parents or the foster children that specifically relate to fostering.
Under the current social welfare legislation, in order to qualify for payment of One-Parent Family Payment (OFP) an applicant must be a qualified parent of at least one relevant child who is ordinarily resident in the State, is not detained in a children detention school, and has not attained the relevant age. The relevant age is currently 7 years of age. Additional scheme conditions also apply.
A qualified parent is:
(a) a widow,
(b) a widower,
(c) a separated spouse,
(d) an unmarried person,
(e) a person whose spouse or civil partner has been committed in custody to a prison or place of detention for not less than 6 months, or
(f) a surviving civil partner,
(g) a civil partner who is not living with the other civil partner of the civil partnership, or
(h) a person who is not a party to a civil partnership
who is the parent, step-parent, adoptive parent, or legal guardian of at least one relevant child, who normally resides with that person. Additional qualifying conditions also apply.
To be a qualified parent the applicant must therefore be legally defined as either the parent or guardian of the relevant child. A foster parent is not the legal parent or guardian of the foster child and as such is not a qualified parent and cannot qualify for OFP with the foster child as the relevant child.
Lone foster parents are treated in the same manner as all lone parents in terms of the social welfare income support payments that are available to them from this Department – assuring, in the process, equal treatment for all lone parents. All lone parents must satisfy the conditionality requirements of the OFP scheme.
While there are no specific provisions for foster children in the legislation relating the OFP scheme, provision is effectively made for foster children on the basis of the legislation covering the payment of increases for qualified children (IQCs). This legislation provides that, where the relevant conditions are met, all qualified children – including foster children – will be paid as a child dependent on these schemes. On that basis, foster children are treated in the same manner as the recipient’s own children, once the recipient has an underlying entitlement to the scheme. For example, if a foster parent has children of his/her own one of whom is under 7 years of age, and meets the other conditions of the OFP scheme, s/he can qualify for OFP and will be paid an IQC for his/her own children and the foster child.
In addition foster care allowances from Tusla are not taken into account in the means test for social welfare payments. Where a child has been placed in foster care by Tusla and the child has been in the continuous care of the foster parent(s) for 6 months, Child Benefit may then transfer to the foster parent(s).
I do not have plans to include a foster parent in the definition of a qualified parent for the purposes of determining eligibility for one-parent family payment (OFP).