Information for young people living in care

Learn about the different types of foster care and what it’s like to live in care

Written by spunout


There are many young people in Ireland who are living in children’s residential centres or foster care. Often, this is because their parents aren’t able to look after them. It might be because of family problems, illness, death of a parent, a brother or sister struggling to look after younger children, financial problems, housing problems, neglect, abuse, violence or for many other reasons.

Foster placements can be voluntary or court mandated.

  • In a voluntary placement, the birth parent/s voluntarily place the child in social care because they feel that they can no longer adequately care for their child.
  • In a court mandated placement, the birth parent/s are legally obliged to place the child in foster care because a court has decided that it is not safe or appropriate for the child to live with their birth parent/s at that time.

Ideally, a young person placed in care will return to their family as soon as possible. You can live in care for a few weeks or for a few years, depending on your situation and whether it’s possible for you to return to your family.

Different types of in care placements

Day Foster care

This is a form of foster care where you are placed with a foster carer during the day. You return to your birth parent in the evening and sleep at home. This type of placement does not involve moving into a foster parent’s home. It most commonly occurs when a parent is unwell, is struggling as a single parent or has a child with special needs. Your birth parent will be in frequent contact with the foster day carers. Many people find this type of foster care to be less traumatic, as it does not involve having to move out of your home.

Emergency foster care

This is a scheme whereby you are placed with temporary foster parents. You may be placed with these type of foster carers if you come into care very suddenly, or if a placement breaks down and you need to be moved very quickly.

Short term foster care

In short term foster care, you may move back to your family, to another foster family or be adopted by another family after the short-term placement. This type of placement is not meant to be long term. Often, short term fostering provides care to families during traumatic times, such as illness, bereavement or abuse. Most people in short-term foster placement are encouraged to keep in contact with their family. If the courts decide that you are not allowed to do this, you should be given some photographs of your birth family.

Long-term foster care

Long-term foster placements may last for years. In some situations, they may last until you turn 18 years of age. Being placed in a long-term foster placement usually means that you will not return to your birth parents. Many people in long-term foster placements become so integrated into their foster family that they continue to live with them after they turn 18. Regular contact with your birth family is encouraged in long term foster care, unless the courts have declared that it would be dangerous to your mental or physical health.

Social services and the courts decide if you need to be placed in care. A young person can ask to be taken into care if they are having problems at home. Also, a teacher, neighbour, relative or someone who is concerned for the young person can ask social services to check whether a young person is in a healthy home environment or not. Parents can also ask social services to help if they are having problems caring for a child.

Living in care

Many young people who are placed in care are frightened and unhappy about the decision. It can be very difficult to leave your family and live somewhere different. It can also mean changing school, not seeing your friends and missing the things you normally do. A social worker or the carers who are responsible for you should explain why you’re in care and make the change as easy as possible for you. Your social worker is responsible for making sure you are well looked after and if it’s possible, for you to return to your family.

If you feel that you’re not being told enough about what’s happening, speak up! You’ve got the right to know everything about your time in care and the legalities surrounding it. You can also decide if you want to visit your family, although social services or the court might decide that it’s not safe for you to have contact.

If you are taken into care you might be placed in a children’s residential centre or be fostered. If you are fostered, a foster carer or family will look after you until it’s possible for you to return home or live independently. If your family situation doesn’t improve and it’s impossible for you to return home, then you might be placed with a permanent foster family. All foster carers receive an assessment at application stage.

Tusla is the State’s dedicated child and family agency. If Tusla decides that they would make suitable foster parents, they will then receive training.

Foster parents must sign a contract for each child they take into their home. A social worker will also draw up a Care Plan for the fostered person. A Care Plan records the details of the foster child, the reasons for them coming into care, the type of contact they should have with their birth parents and the on-going plans for the fostered person. It also details information and plans about medical care and schooling.

Tusla will regularly review the foster placement to make sure that you are being cared for properly and that the Care Plan objectives are being carried out.

Need more information, advice or guidance?

We offer information, advice and guidance about the issues that matter to you. Our online Youth Information Chat service is for 16 to 25 year olds and is available Monday to Friday, 4pm to 8pm (excluding Bank Holidays).

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