Voluntary care agreements have several advantages over legal proceedings. They are less adverse; This reduces parental stress and facilitates a more cooperative relationship between parents and social workers, which benefits all parties (including children). Parents retain more decision-making authority through voluntary custody agreements than court injunctions, allowing them to remain more involved in their children`s lives and increasing the chances of eventual reunification. Voluntary custody agreements can also avoid the significant costs associated with court proceedings if parents are happy to accept the child care allowance. The VET agreement sets out how best to meet your child`s needs, the services and supports your child may need, and how long your child will stay with the reference person. Support service contracts can last up to six months. Depending on the situation, you may be available to renew a support service contract. So far, the system of voluntary care agreements has been subject to only very limited revision. However, this will change later this year with the release of the results of the Voluntary Care in Ireland Study that we are conducting at the Schools of Law and Applied Social Studies at UCC. The study identified the same issues as those raised by HIQA in the above-mentioned correspondence; But it has also studied a wide range of other issues. You may be able to extend the agreement later if necessary. The evidence gathered in the study also raises serious concerns from the point of view of parental rights. Parents who enter into voluntary care agreements are often challenged by mental health issues, cognitive impairments or addictions, which can raise questions about the extent to which they fully understand the nuanced legal agreement they are signing.
These concerns are reinforced by the fact that our study showed that parents almost never receive independent legal advice before signing (unlike parents in child custody court proceedings, who almost always have legal representation). Other points raised by study participants are that scarce resources are allocated to cases where Tusla is accountable to a judge for the child`s care plan rather than to children placed in voluntary care facilities. Children in voluntary care may have fewer opportunities to express themselves on decisions that affect them. Contrary to what happens in court proceedings, there is no provision for the appointment of a guardian in cases of voluntary care who represents the views and best interests of the child. The purpose of these services is to help you take care of your child in your home. But if your child can`t be cared for at home, you can get an agreement for specific needs. They can often reach these agreements through collaborative planning and decision-making. When people think of children under state guardianship, the image that is invoked is one of the social workers who enter homes with court decisions that allow them to remove children from their families due to abuse or neglect. This is often a long, legalistic and contradictory process. However, it is generally not known that in many jurisdictions (including Ireland) the majority of children who are placed in state custody do so without a court order having been obtained. This is not as alarming as it seems and refers to a system known in Ireland as “voluntary care arrangements”. Voluntary care plays an important role in Ireland`s child welfare system, but it is regulated rather vaguely by international standards Once signed by a parent, a voluntary custody agreement allows Tusla (the legal body responsible for child welfare and welfare) to put a child in state custody without the need for a court order.
About 55% of admissions to public institutions in Ireland are under voluntary care arrangements. Some move to a court order and 70% of children in care are by court order at the end of the year….