Foster care is full-time or part-time substitute care of children outside their own home by people other than their biological or adoptive parents or legal guardians.
Foster care is the preferred option for children who for various reasons cannot live with their birth parents. Children come into care if a child protection or welfare concern is identified and it is assessed that their need for protection cannot be met by their parents. Foster carers look after other people’s children, caring for them on a daily basis. This includes working closely with social workers, parents and other professionals who are involved in the children’s lives. Foster carers are expected to support contact with the children’s parents and family.
Foster care can be provided by the State (i.e. Tusla, the Child and Family Agency) or by non-statutory, voluntary or private fostering agencies. All foster carers, regardless of the method of recruitment, must be approved by Tusla, the Child and Family Agency prior to any child being placed with them.
Becoming a Foster Carer
If you are interested in becoming a foster carer, you can apply to Tusla, the Child and Family Agency or one of the private fostering agencies (see more below).
When you contact Tusla (https://www.tusla.ie/services/alternative-care/foster-care/) or a private fostering agency, a social worker will arrange to visit you at your home to discuss fostering with you in more detail. Based on the information exchanged on this visit, the social worker will put together a report which includes a recommendation on whether or not to proceed to the application stage. The fostering team leader then makes a decision whether or not to proceed to the next stage
Following the successful completion of the enquiry home visit, you will be sent an application form to complete which provides information about you and your family. This will include consent forms to allow the necessary checks and enquiries be completed to help determine your suitability to foster.
References and Checks
Following receipt of your completed and signed application form and consent forms, the following checks will be completed:
- Garda vetting on all members of your household over 16 years;
- Social work checks;
- Child protection checks;
- School reports if you have children at school;
- A medical examination by your own GP
- A minimum of two personal referees who will provide written references and who will be interviewed;
- A reference from your current or previous employer if you are working with children;
- Enquiries to other agencies where necessary; and
- Other enquiries depending on individual circumstances.
A fostering assessment will commence once satisfactory Garda Vetting has been received. Once this is in place, a social worker will carry out a full assessment. All members of your immediate family will be involved in the assessment to gain an insight into your skills and experience. A training course is provided which outlines the tasks and responsibilities of foster care. This assessment process will take a number of months to complete.
Foster Care Committee
The assessment report will be presented to the Tusla Foster Care Committee who then makes the decision as to whether or not to approve you as a foster carer. To help with the decision-making process, you will be invited to attend the committee meeting. You will be informed verbally on the day the outcome of the meeting. You will also be informed in writing and offered the opportunity to appeal the decision if you are not happy with the outcome.
Private Foster Care Agencies
All children in care in Ireland come into care through Tusla, the Child and Family Agency. In circumstances where additional supports are required for a child, or a placement is not available with a Tusla registered foster carer, Tusla will contract the placement with a private foster care agency. Private foster care agencies provide additional supports to foster carers registered with them including access to 24/7 support, access to additional training etc. If you foster for a private fostering agency, your Link Social Worker will be from the agency, but the Child in Care Social Worker will be from Tusla.
Each private fostering agency offers its own specific supports; full details can be found in their individual websites. See list below.
Each agency assesses its own applicants and each applicant must undergo an assessment and training process as outlined previously. Towards the end of the assessment, the social worker will draw up a final report for submission to a Tusla Foster Care Committee.