93% of the 6,329 minors in care of the State were living in foster families last year, according to a study by an organisation representing social workers employed in the area.

This is one of the highest incidences of foster placements in the world and a reason to be proud, a sub-group of the Irish Association of Social Workers (IASW) has said.

However, the organisation has called on the Government to establish a working party committee or group to examine and make recommendations on the sector.

The call was made in a discussion paper produced by the Social Workers in Foster Care Group (SWIFC) which highlighted the on-going scarcity of resources provided to the service by the State.

Catherine Bond, who represented carers at the launch, said that some foster families have had to spend their own money on medical services for those they are looking after on behalf of the State.

She said the Irish Foster Care Association had identified the problem in a recent survey of members.

The 26-page IASW document entitled Foster Care: Envisioning the Future highlights the urgency of setting up a working party in the context of a changing child care environment, and increasing pressure on the child care system.

While acknowledging progress, it underlines the challenges to the continued provision of high quality care for the most vulnerable in society. 

Apart from the scarcity of resources, they include:

  • the unintended impacts of increasing standardisation of policy and practice and centralisation of services.
  • recruitment and retention of foster carers.
  • private sector provision; court proceedings and the law.
  • the role of the Guardian ad Litem; preventing family breakdown.
  • maintaining social work values and ethics in the midst of these challenges.

The SWIFC recommends that the working party carry out a review of the foster care services from the perspectives of legislation, policy, resource allocation, and best practice in the field.

In a statement, the organisation says that Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, commits to providing family based care for the children and young people requiring the care and protection of the Irish State.

It says the fact that 93 % of children in State care in Ireland are cared for in a foster care setting is "a hard earned statistic we can be proud of and one that places us to the fore in foster care provision in a world context".

However, it adds that at this time of challenge "we must work diligently to protect this core strand and principle in care provision".