Out of home care

Out of home care is provided and organised by the Department Children and Youth Affairs, for children and young people under 18-years-old who are unable to live with their parents.

Share houseThere are a range of different types of out of home care, depending on your needs, your situation, and the availability of services. It can be for short-term (days) or long-term (weeks, months or years) periods.

Types of out of home care

  • Foster care – living with people who aren’t related to you.
  • Independent living – living with minimal support in a subsidised (financially assisted) place.
  • Kinship or relative care – living with relatives who aren’t your biological parents.
  • Residential – living with a group of other young people with workers supervising.
  • Respite care – living in care for a regularly planned period of time such as one weekend, a month, or a week during the school holidays.

Under the law, the health service will remove you from your parents’ care if they have reason to believe you’re at immediate risk of serious harm. There are a range of different reasons why you might go into out of home care. Some of these include:

You’ll probably experience a range of emotions if you’ve been placed in out of home care:

  • isolation and a sense of disconnection.
  • a sense of being overwhelmed.
  • stress or anxiousness.
  • sadness or depression.
  • sense of shame and distrust of others.
  • happiness (possibly because you feel safer).

The situation may also be affecting you physically. For example, you might:

  • feel physically sick, including headaches or migraine.
  • find it hard to concentrate.
  • sleep too much or not enough.

Moving to out of home care affects other parts of your life too, including school, and you can find you’re not able to enjoy the things you normally would.

Managing the situation

  • Know your rights – check Empowering people in care for information on your rights. Alternatively contact free legal advice centres online or call them on 01 8745690.
  • Stay in regular contact with your key worker – a key worker will be a social worker or someone appointed to provide support and assistance to you during your placement. Your key worker is there for you and should support you in making decisions.
  • Talk to your teacher/school – it’s understandable changes at home might affect your school work, particularly if you have to move to a different school. Talk to your school counsellor about issues that may be worrying you or ask your key worker to support you with this.
  • Look after yourself – it’s important to take time out by doing something that you usually enjoy. Even though you might not feel like it, exercising and eating well can help. Getting plenty of sleep can also help.
  • Get some space – sometimes getting some head space and a change of scenery can be helpful – it’s important to  do this regularly. This might include going for a walk or listening to your favourite music, reading a book, going to the movies – whatever works for you.

Myths about people living in care

  • They’re unloved by their families – there are many different reasons as to why young people might be in care.
  • They must be troublemakers and lack respect for society – like most people, people in care usually just want to fit in and are all individuals.
  • Being in care is a horrible experience – like most homes, there are good times and hard times.

Leaving out of home care

Like anyone else who leaves their family home, if you have been in care you need ongoing support to help you adjust to independent living. The Health Service Executive is not only responsible for you while you’re in care, but also for developing ‘leaving care’ or ‘after care’ plans. It’s important to speak to your key worker about how you can manage the transition smoothly.

More information

Empowering people in care – find support, help and advice, and learn about other young people’s experiences in care. Call them on 01 872 7661 / 01 872 7652 or email info@IAYPIC.ie. Read their guide to out of home care here.

The National Youth Council of Ireland – the representative body for national voluntary youth organisations, which acts on issues that impact upon young people.

The Children’s Rights Alliance – a group of 70 organisations which work to ensure the rights of children and young people in Ireland are respected. Provides information on children’s rights and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Call them on 01 405 4823 or email info@cra.iol.ie.

Social Services Inspectorate – makes sure children and young people living in residential centres and foster care are safe, well looked after, and have a say in the type of care they received. Call them on 01 418 0588.


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