‘Private Family Arrangements’ for children in Ireland: The informal grey space in-between state care and the family home

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Burns, Kenneth
O'Mahony, Conor
Brennan, Rebekah
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Oxford University Press
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The literature on alternative care focuses overwhelmingly on formal, court-ordered placements; voluntary care placements are discussed less frequently. Least attention of all has been given to informal kinship care placements, where a child is cared for by relatives but is not formally in the legal care of state authorities. In Ireland, these placements, when facilitated by state authorities in lieu of a care order or voluntary care agreement, are known by professionals as ‘private family arrangements’. This article explores evidence which shows that the use of such arrangements is motivated partly by a concern for subsidiarity, and partly by necessity: they provide a source of placements in cases where regulatory requirements and a lack of resources would otherwise make the placement challenging or impossible. However, this strategy carries significant risks. Private family arrangements receive less support and oversight from state authorities than formal care placements, and family members providing care under this model have no legal rights or responsibilities in respect of the child(ren). This places the child(ren) in a precarious position and raises concerns regarding a lack of equity of care. The article will illustrate the impact of these concerns and make recommendations for reform.
Child protection , Children’s rights , Informal kinship care , Kinship diversion , Private family arrangements
Burns, K., O’Mahony, C. and Brennan, R. (2021) '‘Private Family Arrangements’ for Children in Ireland: The Informal Grey Space In-Between State Care and the Family Home', The British Journal of Social Work, 51(4), pp. 1203-1220. doi: 10.1093/bjsw/bcab032
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