Children in Care

Abe Klenfed<br />

The Child and Family Agency (CFA) otherwise known as Tusla, can intervene to defend the welfare of children, where parents have failed in their duty with respect to their child or children. This intervention is limited to exceptional circumstances, as the governing laws expressly acknowledge the principle that it is generally in the best interests of a child to be brought up in his/her own family.

Where the welfare of a child is in danger or there are suspicions of child abuse the State is required to intervene to protect the child. The Tusla website explains what behaviour constitutes child abuse. Barnardos has produced a guide for parents entitled ‘Our Children First: A Parent’s Guide to the National Child Protection Guidance’ which explains the workings of the state mechanisms for intervention and it provides clear and concise information for parents who have children in care.

More broadly, the Citizens Information service provides an overview of the key issues arising where children are placed in the care of the State.

State Intervention

There are many different orders which can be ordered by the court. The order made will reflect the extent of the intervention required on the part of the State in order to protect the welfare and well being of the child or children who are in need of care.

  • Supervision Order

This is a less intrusive approach which permits the Child and Family Agency to regularly visit the child in its home in order to monitor the health and welfare of the child and also to provide advice and support for the parents. However the child is not removed from the home or the family.

  • Voluntary Care Order

This order involves the child being removed from the home by the Child and Family Agency, and taken into the care of the State, with the express consent of the child’s parents. When a parent wishes to resume care of the child, the Child and Family Agency is obliged to return the child to the care of his/her parents. Voluntary Care Orders can arise where parents are ill or have recognised addiction problems.

  • Care Order

A Care Order is made by order of the Court and results in a child being removed from the care of his/her parent(s) and taken into the care of the state. This can be a temporary order or a permanent order.  The granting of a full time Care Order results in a child being placed in the care of the Child and Family Agency until he/she reaches the age of 18 or for a shorter period of time.

  • Interim Care Order

An Interim Care Order is made by order of the court and allows a child to be taken into the care of the State on a temporary basis. The Child and Family Agency typically makes the application for the Interim Care Order and may often need to apply for an interim care order whilst waiting for a full care order to be made by the court.

  • Special Care Order

The Child and Family Agency must apply for a Special Care Order or an Interim Special Care Order where a child needs special care and protection, where the child’s behaviour poses a risk to him/herself and he/she is unlikely to get the special care required unless such an order is made. The making of a Special Care Order results in the child being placed in the care of the CFA for as long as the order is in force. This order allows the CFA to detain the child in a special care unit in order to provide appropriate care, education and treatment. Interim Special Care Orders can be granted by the court while waiting the determination of a special care order application.

  • Emergency Orders

Where there is an emergency, the Gardaí and the CFA can intervene to protect a child and seek whatever orders are immediately necessary in order to protect the needs and welfare of the child.

‘Families with Children in Care: A guide to your rights if your child is in care’ was produced by Clare-Care. This is a very useful and comprehensive document explaining the process of children in care under the following headings:

  • Parents and carers
  • Advocacy service
  • HSE social work service
  • Voluntary care
  • Statutory care
  • Court orders
  • My parental rights
  • Solicitors – how can they help?
  • Role of the Health Service Executive
  • Who will look after my child in care?
  • Decisions about my child – who makes them?
  • Getting decisions changed
  • Keeping in touch with my child in care
  • What happens when my child comes home?
  • Money matters

Image by Abe Kleinfeld CC – BY – NC – 2.0


The Legal Aid Board

Free Legal Advice Centres

Family Mediation Service

Citizens Information


“Empowering People in Care” is a resource to assist those who are engaged with the Care system. Core contact hours are 9.00am – 5.00pm.

  • Addresses:
    • EPIC Cork – Millerd Hall, Millerd Street, Cork; Tel: 021 2428434
    • EPIC Dublin – 7 Red Cow Lane. Smithfield, Dublin 7. Tel: 01 8727661
    • EPIC Galway – Westside Resource Centre, Seamus Quirke Road, Galway Tel: 091 395605
  • Email:
  • Website: