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8 July 2024 - Child Law Project Press Release Monday 8 July 2024

Child Law Project publishes last volume of case reports as contract ends, highlighting crisis in availability of care placements for vulnerable children


  • 70 reports in new volume from Child Law Project
  • Judges express dismay at lack of appropriate placements to meet the needs of vulnerable children
  • Concern about large numbers of cases with no allocated social worker
  • Cases involving migrants highlight additional complexities
  • Success stories highlight life-changing, positive impact of care
  • Supreme Court upholds High Court judgments on special care

The challenge of providing appropriate care placements, allocated social workers and support services for children in care marks the latest volume of reports published by the Child Law Project today (8 July 2024).

This is the last volume of reports to be published by the Child Law Project under a three-year grant from the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth (DCEDIY), which expires in October this year.

This volume comprises 70 reports – 67 from the District Court, one each from the Supreme Court, Circuit Court and High Court – attended by Child Law Project reporters over the first half of 2024.

Half of the District Court cases (33 reports) concern applications made by the Child and Family Agency/Tusla to take into or maintain a child in its care or under its supervision. Echoing previous volumes, key themes in these cases include parental mental health, disability, addiction, homelessness, domestic violence and criminality. The remaining District Court cases (34 reports) explore how children already in care are getting on. Some of these cases had come before the court for a scheduled review but in others they had come back to court due to a placement breakdown or a concern that the child was not being properly supported.

Many of the reports published today illustrate the positive, life-changing impact of the care system. Good news stories include foster carers granted enhanced rights who described their foster child as being “part of the family”; and foster carers who said the teenager with them for 12 years “would have a home with them for as long as she wished”. In another positive story, a mother had overcome addictions and worked hard over eight years “with the aim of increasing her access with her daughter and building a bond with her”.

Despite these success stories, the Project continued to see members of the judiciary and other professionals expressing concern and frustration about failings in the care system and the dismal HSE response to meeting the disability and mental health needs of children in care.

Unfortunately, the shortage of appropriate care placements – in foster care, residential care and special care – dominates this volume. It includes discussion in the Supreme Court, High Court and District Court on the ongoing lack of special care beds. Multiple judges said they are “in despair” at the situation, with one High Court judge describing the lack of special care beds as “a tsunami about to reach shore and nothing is being done”. A number of vulnerable children are under a special care order but no special care bed is available to them. Issues arising from the Project’s reports include overlap and confusion between children facing criminal charges and requiring special care or other residential care, and the lack of step-down and high support care units.

CEO of the Child Law Project, Dr Maria Corbett, said: “The lack of suitable care placements is having a domino effect that risks collapsing the care system. The knock-on effects of a lack of appropriate placements are compounding existing difficulties for children and staff and so we fear the system has begun to unravel.

“The knock-on effects of a dearth of placements include the CFA delaying applications to take children into care and continuing to use unregulated or unsuitable emergency placements. Many children are experiencing multiple placement moves, often over a short period of time, despite stability being a known key ingredient for a successful outcome to care. Urgent action across government is needed to halt this spiral of poor practice and to build trust in the care system.”

Dr Corbett continued: “Of particular concern in this volume are a number of cases where there was concern that the child was being sexually or criminally exploited and the level of support in their current care placement was not sufficient to stabilise them and address these risks. For some, as their case returned to court for review, the situation deteriorated and became very bleak, with staff scrambling to keep the child safe.”

As is evident in this volume, the judiciary was maintaining an active role in monitoring progress and holding the CFA to account. In several cases, the judge refused to grant the usual one-month extension of an interim care order, choosing instead to bring the case back to court in one or two weeks’ time. This occurred for example in the case of a teenager in an unregulated special emergency arrangement (SEA) who was absconding, engaging in criminality and had missed court hearings. In several cases under the court’s review progress was made by the time the case next returned to court.

This volume also covers proceedings concerning a large number of cases where children in care had no allocated social worker for protracted periods of time, which is contrary to national policy. The cases were re-entered by the judge who sharply criticised the CFA for its non-compliance with the court’s direction that where a child in care is without a social worker for more than six weeks, the matter must return to court.

Commenting on the volume, Executive Director of the Child Law Project, Dr Carol Coulter, said: "This volume, like the preceding 28 volumes published by the Child Law Project since 2013, demonstrates the crucial role of the courts in protecting the rights of children in State care, while also ensuring that the rights of vulnerable parents are upheld and that the door to reunification is not closed. Although the District Court is described as a court of summary jurisdiction, in child care cases District Court judges pay close and empathetic attention, often devoting days to hearings, to the needs of some of the most vulnerable in our society, children at risk of neglect and harm."

Finally this volume contains several cases involving children from migrant families and unaccompanied minors, often fleeing war. In addition to language barriers, these cases raise additional complexities, including discussions on whether to transfer proceedings to another jurisdiction. Other challenges for working with migrants include building trust between parents and translators, access to reliable information and identifying support networks among family and friends who may be undocumented or generally fearful of authority.


For further information, please contact

  • Dr Maria Corbett, CEO        087- 783 5057
  • Dr Carol Coulter, Executive Director            087- 646 9461
  • Yvonne Woods, Communications support 087- 230 9227

Notes for editors:

  1. The full volume of 70 case reports will be available on the Child Law Project website from 8pm on Sunday 7 July 2024
    Six sample reports are given below.
  2. The Child Law Project publishes regular reports from the courts which make child protection orders on its dedicated website. It collects and analyses data from the proceedings, reports on the nature and outcomes of those proceedings and promotes a public debate on the issues raised. The anonymity of the children and their families is preserved throughout.
  3. As of June 2024, the Child Law Project has stopped attending court. This is the last volume of reports to be published under its three-year grant from the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth. An analytical report reflecting on three years of reporting will be published in autumn 2024.

Read the published volume here: