Press Release

Minister addresses the Annual Conference of the Irish Foster Care Association

Minister of State, Mary Hanafin T.D. today (11/11/00) addressed the Annual Conference of the Irish Foster Care Association which was held in the Slieve Russell Hotel in Cavan.

The Minister stated that the foster care service has expanded over the last ten years in line with the general child protection and welfare services and there are now nearly 3,500 children in foster care. The expansion of these services arose from a number of factors including greater awareness of child welfare and protection issues, social trends, the introduction of new legislation and regulations and the substantial investment made in these services over the last ten years. However, while the services have expanded, there has been an increased level of demand resulting in an increased level of pressure on the services. The Minister said “Many involved in these services are concerned about these difficulties and I am delighted that these have been addressed by the Working Group on Foster Care”. The Minister stated that she hoped that the report of the Working Group would be published within the next few weeks. She said “I have read the report and am taking on board the recommendations with a view to implementing them quickly. The report addresses the concerns expressed by many involved in fostering. These concerns include the appropriate placing of children, education for children in care, appropriate care plans, retaining existing foster carers in the system, ensuring an adequate number of recruits to undertake fostering and the provision of proper support and training for foster carers”.

The report also addresses the issues of relative care, foster care and after care for those with a disability and specialised fostering for children with serious behavioural problems. The Minister said “I am conscious of the fact that many of the children in foster care today have experienced more trauma than was the case in the past. As a result many foster parents are facing greater difficulties in caring for these children. The new policy guidelines will deal with all these issues.”

In mentioning specialised fostering for children with serious behavioural difficulties, the Minister stated that the development of this form of fostering is particularly important in the context of the introduction of the Children Bill. Although this Bill deals mainly with juvenile justice it also deals with providing services for out of control non-offending children. The Government has put in place a programme to provide high support and special care facilities for these children, However, it is the intention that these facilities would only be used as a last resort for a child in need of special care and protection and then only for as short a period as is necessary. The health boards will have to provide a range of community intervention services, including specialised fostering to meet the needs of these children. The services will have to be provided on a multi-disciplinary basis. This will be one of the major challenges facing the services in the future.

The Minister said that rearing children is an expensive business and foster carers deserve allowances that recognise their valuable role. ” I have personally discussed this issue with both the Taoiseach and the Minister for Finance in the context of the Estimates and the Budget” she said.

“However in the meantime I am pleased to announce that the special Christmas bonus of £100 per child will be paid this year in addition to the Christmas bonus paid to foster carers. I am also pleased to announce that funding provided to the Foster Care Association will be increased from £70,000 to £120,000 to enable the Association to develop its services. The Department and the Association will continue to work together to put in place a strategic plan to ensure the further development of the foster care service.”