A report from the Child Care Law Reporting Project has found that 90% of child care cases coming before the courts in the past year involved unmarried parents.

In one in four cases, a parent was from an ethnic minority, while almost a third of the children had special needs.

The report looked at 486 cases between September last year and July this year, involving 864 children and just over 20% of all children in court-ordered care.

The President of the District Court has said that insufficient court sitting time continues to challenge judges as they try to ensure that they are attuned to children's and parents' timescales.

Judge Rosemary Horgan was speaking at the publication of the report by the independent body this morning which shows that one in four cases involved a parent from an ethnic minority while 30% of the children had special needs.

The reports author, Dr Carol Coulter, predicted that Ireland's demotion in UNICEF's child poverty rankings will accelerate the number of children coming into state care.

Judge Horgan's colleagues in the District Court hear applications for care and supervision orders throughout the State.

She said she takes the court's responsibility very seriously, but that "it remains a challenge which can only be met in terms of the resources available to us".

Dr Coulter and her team found that the most common reasons the State applies to put children in care are:

- A parent's cognitive or mental disability 15%
- Drug abuse 13% 
- Alcohol abuse 12%

Dr Coulter noted that the Health Service Executive's figures show these three issues feature in 29% of cases where children are in care.

In almost three quarters of Dr Coulter's cases, the children went into foster care or were already in foster care. Most of them (57%) were with non-relatives.

She said the 2012 HSE review showed that 62% of children were in "general foster care" and 29% in "relative foster care", with just 6% in residential care.

Dr Coulter said this indicates that a higher proportion of children in voluntary care are with relatives and a lower proportion in residential care compared with court-ordered care.