Fostering a child

Foster Care

·        What is foster care?

·        Children who need foster care

·        What are the responsibilities of foster carers?

·        Who can foster?

·        Different kinds of foster care

·        What do foster carers enjoy about fostering?

·        Becoming a foster carer

·        Supports for foster carers

·        Who to contact to proceed for further information on foster care

·        What is foster care?

Foster care offers alternative family care to children whose parents cannot provide this for them in their own families. This can be due to a number of reasons. Foster care gives children a second chance to experience family living, while helping them to come to terms with what led to them to leaving home. In most instances, it also facilitates them to keep in touch with their birth families.

·        Children who need foster care

Children who need foster care come from families with a variety of personal difficulties. Their families are often lacking in the supports needed to help them through the crisis times that any of us can face.

Of the children who are received into state care:

-34% come from families with alcohol and/or drug addictions.

-14% have experienced child neglect and/or physical abuse.

-11% have been abandoned on a temporary or permanent basis by their birth parents.

-Children whose parents experience a physical or psychiatric illness make up 9% of those in care.

-9% are in care due to insurmountable difficulties in the child/parent relationship.

Contrary to public perception, only 5% of children in care are admitted due to their experience of child sexual abuse within their families.

Most children in care will have a combination of these circumstances in their backgrounds. For example, parental addiction problems often result in child neglect, or in physical or psychiatric illness.

Children can be fostered up to the age of 18 years old. Generally 40% are aged between zero and five, while a further 40% are aged between six and 12. A further 18% are aged between 13 and 16, while the remaining 2% are aged from 17 to 18.

At least one in four (26%) of children in care have at least one brother or sister with them. Some come from families of up to five children. According to the National Standards for Foster Care (2003), there should be no more than two foster children in any one foster family in order to allow them the best chance of settling in. Exceptions can be made for some sibling groups however, once it is agreed that the foster families have the capacity to meet the children's needs.

Some children who need foster care have special educational needs or particular health requirements. A small number will need therapy to help them come to terms with the reasons that led to them coming into care and to address the grief they feel at the separation from their families. For most children in care, the experience of living in a foster family with people who are sensitive to their needs is enough to help them through this difficult time, especially if they can have supportive contact with their birth families.

·        What are the responsibilities of foster carers?

In addition to the ordinary tasks of parenting, fostering involves some extra responsibilities. These include having the best possible relations with the child's parents and extended family members and co-operating with contact arrangements between them. Foster carers must also help the child to understand why he does not live at home. The child's grasp of this difficult area of life will change as he/she gets older and he/she may need support to come to terms with the longer-term consequences of the separation from the birth family.

Foster carers need to have a good working relationship with their local health board social workers and to agree to attend training and occasional planning meetings about the child's care, as required. They must keep the health board informed of any significant events in the child's life or in their own lives, which may effect their ability to continue to provide alternative family care.

·        Who can foster?

Foster carers come from all walks of life. They may be married, single, separated or divorced. They may or may not have children of their own. Many people who do not have their own children foster very successfully, as long as they realise that foster care rarely leads to adoption and that most children in care have some level of contact with their own birth families.

People who foster may be employed or unemployed. If both partners in a couple are working full time however, the health board will need to discuss suitable child care arrangements and availability.

Foster carers come from a variety of educational backgrounds. Many have not completed secondary education, while others have third level qualifications. All that is required in this regard is a commitment to help a child reach his full educational potential.

If foster carers do not own their own home, security of tenure still leaves them eligible to foster. A foster child will not always need a single room, though it is important to have enough space to offer adequate accommodation.

Foster carers need to pass a medical examination carried out by their own general practitioner. Health boards encourage a non-smoking policy in all foster homes.

Garda clearances are required for all persons aged over 18 years living in the household. Health boards also carry out local authority checks to see if applicants are already known to them in any capacity.

Foster families need to have relatively stable and secure family relationships. This does not mean there is an expectation that they will never have had any challenges in their lives. Sometimes the experience of having overcoming personal adversities can be of assistance to them in fostering someone else's child. It is important that everyone in the family is in agreement with the decision to foster, as all will be affected by the changes it brings.

Applications are welcomed from all religious persuasions. Birth families may exercise their right to have their child cared for by a family of their own religion. However, the extent to which foster carers practice their religion varies from family to family.

Foster carers are required to co-operate with health boards in providing for the child's care. The guiding rule is that the child's best interests are the over-riding consideration in all plans made in foster care.

·        Different kinds of foster care

Children need different kinds of foster care, depending on why they have had to leave their families and on how long they may need to be out of home. The priority is to provide them with the kind of foster care which best meets their needs. This can be for a few days or until they reach 18 years of age. Health boards aim to return children to their families as soon as possible, if this can be done safely.

The most child friendly form of fostering is open ended, whereby a family agrees to care for a child for as long as the child may need care. This saves the children having to change foster families.

-Short-term or emergency foster care may be defined as lasting from one day to six months or until a longer-term plan can be made for the child. Many families enjoy this type of fostering as they get satisfaction from helping a large number of children along their way to recovery from difficult experiences. Short-term families can take breaks from fostering if they choose to, between having particular children live with them.

-Long-term fostering offers family care to children for periods of longer than six months and up to and including the children reaching adulthood. This form of care is chosen for children who are unlikely to be able to return home. It is important to point out however, that fostering gives no guarantee that children can stay until they are reared, though many do so.

-Weekend and holiday fostering is usually best suited to children who live in residential centres, whose involvement with their birth families does not allow them to avail of living full time in a foster family. It can also be useful for children who have experienced many moves in care and for whom full time family life can demand more than they are able for. This type of fostering can also be offered to children who live with their families during the week but who benefit from alternative care at weekends.

-Day fostering is a flexible service which allows children to remain in their own homes by night and at weekends, while receiving alternative family care during the day. This kind of fostering gives birth families the time and space to address their difficulties without their children having to separate from them full time.

-Respite foster care provides a service to other foster carers who need to take breaks from the children they foster on an occasional or regular planned basis. This type of care works best when the child can have a guarantee of going to the same family to whom he/she has been previously introduced.

·        What do foster carers enjoy about fostering?

Foster carers experience significant benefits for the children they foster and for their own family life. The children are often seen as a source of love and joy, especially for those who have no children of their own. Most foster carers find that the worries they had about the impact of fostering on their family life are alleviated once they adjust to the changes this way of life brings. Carers value being able to offer stability to children who are vulnerable. Many foster carers report that their own children gain a more mature and balanced outlook on life through the experience of fostering.

·        Becoming a foster carer

Prospective foster carers enter an assessment process with a health board social worker, which educates them about what fostering will involve both for them and for the children concerned. This involves a series of interviews, usually in their own homes, where consideration is given to whether fostering is a good option for the children in care and for the particular family. Fostering Regulations and Standards require that the assessment be completed within 16 weeks. Where this is not possible, the time scale will be discussed with them and an estimated date of completion will be agreed between both parties. The Health Board Foster Care Committee considers completed assessments for approval. The National Standards for Foster Care (2003) outline the applicants’ option to meet the committee, should they desire to do so.

·        Supports for foster carers

All foster carers are entitled to have a fostering link worker to support them in their care of the child. They are training before they start fostering and are offered further occasional training when they have children in their care. Foster carers can avail of support through attendance at their local carers network, run by their health board and through the Irish Foster Care Association, (IFCA) a charity organisation which advocates on foster care issues and provides practical advice and training to those involved in foster care. Information on the IFCA can be found at or through email at . The postal address is: IFCA, 1st Floor, The Pharmacy Corner, 14 Mayfield Terrace, Ballinteer, Dublin 16.

Each foster child is entitled to have a social worker, who visits them in the foster family and has responsibility for maintaining links with the child's birth family. Children are provided with a medical card to cover physical health needs. Specific standard child care equipment can be provided to assist with caring for the child. Foster carers receive a maintenance allowance to help them meet the cost of caring for the child. This allowance is linked to inflation and is set by the Minister for Health and Children. Since January 2004, this allowance is €289.50 per week for children under 12 years and €316.50 for those aged between 12 and 18 years. It is not means tested and does not affect unemployment benefits or other allowances. All foster carers are covered for public liability insurance by their health board.

·        Who to contact for further information on foster care

If you live in the Northern Area Health Board of the Eastern Regional Health Authority, you can contact your local community care fostering social worker at the following phone numbers:

-Community Care Area 6 (Dublin Northwest) at 01 - 8825066

-Community Care Area 7 (Dublin North Central) at 01 - 8556871

-Community Care Area 8 (Dublin North) at 01 - 8900455

If you live outside the Northern Area Health Board catchment area, you can phone your own health board to get in touch with your local fostering social work team.


jambalya - 05/08/2004 18:26

Does any one know what the position of the health boards is regarding gay couples or individuals fostering children? Is this at the discretion of the health board in question? Just wondering.

Anonymous - 06/08/2004 08:50

As far as I know, individuals - single or widowed people can foster children. The majority of single foster carers are women. Don't know about gay couples tho'.

John(osullj) - 16/08/2004 10:29

Single or widowed people can foster, for sure. I have met some at support group meetings. Don't know about gay couples.

Anonymous - 02/12/2004 18:13

yes gay couples can apply to be foster carers. But in order for them to have a child placed with them, the birth parent(s) would have to agree.

lisa - 26/10/2005 18:32

My sister's partner has a neice/ nephew on the way. The first 3 children have been taken into care by his sister and she feels unable to cope with a new born too. I am thinking of fostering this new child but will i be allowed or do I have to go through all the training and assessments first.

Anonymous - 08/11/2005 16:11

Lisa, you may be allowed to foster this child but you will of course have to go through all the training and assessments first.

Anonymous - 08/02/2006 13:53

I thought only the Health boards provided fostering but recently I got some information about fostering from a agency called fostering first ireland their booklet was very helpful and it came very quickly.

KEL - 26/07/2006 21:35


Agnes - 27/07/2006 23:48

Kel, as far as I know they can so long as they can prove that they can provide a loving and caring home. Most foster children need some tender loving care. You would have to be able to prove that you could provide the right environment to foster.

KEL - 28/07/2006 09:51

thanks agnes yes that goes without saying i have worked with children for last eleven years and would like to offer a child a loving home if needed

kittykat - 07/08/2006 05:06

I was just wondering are you allowd to foster a child if you yourself were in care as a child

lee - 09/08/2006 17:35

can anyone advise me i have done short term fostering a couple of years ago but had my own children then would like to do long term fostering do i have to do the course and assesment again or just ring health board and start fostering again .would love to hear some advice thanks lee

Gemma(ABP54441) - 02/11/2006 11:45

hello i dont know much about fostering a child but its long been a dream of mine. i was wondering can someone give me advice i have some concerns on my side and id like to discuss these with someone my email is for anyone who can advise me thanks very much

JAMES - 02/07/2007 17:14


Aine - 04/07/2007 01:38

James, In answer to your question, quite simply, no! Fostering children is not done for the financial fulfillment of the foster parent but for the child. If you cannot provide for yourself financially you would not be considered to be a good foster parent for a child.

ruth - 01/10/2007 20:09

I'm a 28 year old single parent with a 8year old daughter,work full time as a special needs assistant,and am interested in fostering...I live in rented accommodation and wonder would this prevent me from being able to foster?

Anonymous - 02/10/2007 21:46

Aine, you are so wrong on your ideas of what a good foster carer is, are you saying people on social welfare should not be foster carers? foster carer/HSE West

Anonymous - 07/10/2007 00:34

I am a 56 yr old widow living in England although Irish born. I have been fostering in England for 18 months through a fostering agency. I would now like to return to Ireland to live and wonder what my chances are of becoming a foster carer in Ireland. Would I have to re-train?

Anonymous - 08/10/2007 10:37

Anon 21:46 - the fact remains that a financi analysis will be done and those of low pay sclaes including those on social welfare will be unlikely to fare well on that analysis

GBP63107 - 08/10/2007 23:17

When applying to become a foster carer, your finanical situation is not important. WHAT is important is that you are of good character and have a room in your home for a child or young person and be able to give love and security unconditionallly. A large amount of foster carers in Ireland today are on or have been on social welfare. People who recieve s/welfare are as good as anyone else.

Anonymous - 09/10/2007 10:04

It also involves having the financial stability to be able to care for a child.

susi - 12/11/2007 16:25

I have just made my initial enquiry about foster care and will be attending an information evening on thursday. Is there any advice anyone can give me regarding the process. I have been thinking about it for years and now that i have decided i am keen to get started

J - 23/11/2007 22:18

hi I am in a same sex relationship. myself and my partner are very interested in fostering a child. i was adopted myself, and have always felt i would like to foster or adopt. my partner and i were blessed in aug when my partner gave birth to a beautiful baby girl, we went to a fertility clinic in nov lst year. we are truly so blessed and are so happy to be parents. we feel we are in a position to give our love time and our home to a child. and really hope that being a same sex couple doesnt prevent this.

Foster parent - 20/02/2008 13:10

Hi i'm recieving loan parents and foster allowence, should i declare it to the social welfare, could i loose my rent allowence and loan parents if they find out

Anonymous - 08/05/2008 00:05

Check out Fostering First Ireland I made an enquiry to them recently, they seem very professional and answered all my questions. I am expecting a social worker to visit me next week.

Anonymous - 05/08/2008 18:37

I had a visit today from someone from fostering first Ireland and they were so professional and helpful and very honest about their expectations of foster carers. I can recommend them to anyone thinking of becoming a foster carer.

Cian - 12/11/2008 11:13

Just wanted to let people know about which is dedicated to finding short term fostering of adolescent children... it is run by the Daughters of Charity.

Anonymous - 12/11/2008 12:57

Hi J, congrats on the happy arrival. I too am in a same sex relationship and we have discussed having children at some point however I know that there is still huge stigma attached to being gay, and the idea that people will not accept us as a family unit puts us both off. What was your experience like? Friends, family? Were they supportive? Lou

mamaletty - 14/07/2010 10:41

hi,does anyone have any experience in having a police record and still being allowed to foster? no jail term and no violence or abuse.

dasan - 30/09/2010 12:27

Hi All,

Myself and partner have decided to start fostering and have a social worker calling in two weeks to start the ball rolling.  Im really looking forward to it, my kids are 12 and 10.

Anybody any suggestions?

Rowanda - 13/10/2010 00:04

We fostered a girl in UK from a care home for 6 years, she was 12 at the time. Older than my 3 children. She is now 36 married with 3 children and remains my daughter to this day. There was never a question of money although at times it was scarce but love was in abundance, with a little dicipline and guidance she knew she was safe and loved.  Today she is a wonderful loving mother to her own children. She didn't need money she needed love.

dasan - 18/10/2010 11:39

Hi All,

Just been accepted to go ahead and train as a foster carer. Im over the moon, cant wait. 

Let you know how it goes.


dasan - 19/04/2011 10:52

Hi All,

Half way through our home visits with our appointed social worker that is helping us prepare for fostering. Its eye opening but great. We are up to two visits a week with him and really enjoying it. Every week we get "homework" and we set aside two evenings to do this. We think we are doing well and dont find it at all stressful. Its very relaxed when you are in your own surroundings and with a social worker that is as down to earth as we are. 

I'll keep you up to date. 

dasan - 30/09/2011 11:06

Hi All,

Just to let you all know I have been approved to foster. Got the go ahead from the panel just last nite in Dublin.  I'm thrilled.  Its taken a year but its been worth it.

GeeDee44 - 01/12/2011 20:44

Dasan congratualtions, I get most of my foster carer training now online

dasan - 25/01/2012 14:20

Hi All Again,

Still waiting for a child to be placed with me.  Have been asked to take a number but didnt work out for different reasons.  Room is still ready and I change the bed every week in the hope of starting.

Keep your fingers crossed for me.  Keep you all informed.

Redz - 18/08/2012 17:26

Hi, need some advice quick!!

I have become aware of a 16yr old in the UK who has been kicked out of home. I know this child and would like to help. Can I take this child into my home here in Ireland until she completes her schooling ? I have 3 bed house and two children myself. All girls.I work part-time and my partner works full time. Would the child get some financial assistance for herself for school books, clothing etc ?? I could manage feeding her and providing a nice comfortable home but financially it would be a strain if I had to school her etc. 

What are our options??

Please advise of u can, thanks.

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