The family foster care system in Ireland – Advances and challenges

Robbie Gilligan - Children and Youth Services Review


This paper sets out to give a rounded view of the Irish foster care system as currently constituted. It will cover areas such as the law and policy framework, key data, key institutional actors, views of the system from the perspective of key stakeholders (care experienced adults and young people, foster carers and their children and the biological parents of children in foster care), and distinctive features of the Irish system. It will also offer a brief review of key influences that have helped shape the current system and Ireland's move from high use of institutional care to high rates of family placement. It will also consider challenges that still face policy and practice in the Irish foster care system. The paper takes a multi-disciplinary approach drawing on evidence from various perspectives including law, history and social policy. Offering the Irish case in this paper is not to claim or imply that the Irish system is fully developed or has resolved all its challenges. As will become clear, the argument here is that Ireland is an interesting case not because of any (erroneous) claim that it is the finished article as a foster care system. It is interesting because it is both a system that is still in development, and is also one that has already made the transition from a system dominated by residential care to one heavily reliant on family placement.