The latest report from the Child Law Reporting Project showed the total number of court applications increased to 14,124 in 2015 from 9,864 in 2014. The main reason for the increase was the number of care order applications, extensions of interim care orders and reviews of care orders.
Care order applications rose from 1,800 in 2014 to 3,413 last year, the extensions of interim care orders increased from 2,003 to 3,252, and reviews of care orders almost doubled from 806 to 1,502.
There was also a lot of regional variation in the figures, with some courts more likely to grant orders than others.
While there were only 13 applications made last year in Kilkenny, Letterkenny in Co Donegal had 1,117, although many of these applications were adjourned, boosting the overall figure.
However, 448 child care applications were granted in Letterkenny, where 460 new applications were lodged last year.
There were fewer orders sought and granted in the Midlands generally, such as in Carlow, which had 123 applications, of which 82 were struck out or withdrawn, and only two were granted. In Portlaoise, where 50 applications were made, 26 were granted.
In contrast, Tralee had 239 applications, Waterford had 596; Wexford had 935, and Cork had 2,472, of which 807 were granted and 1,562 adjourned. Those figures are higher than those for Dublin, which had a total of 2,003 applications, of which 1,795 were granted.
The director of the Child Care Law Reporting Project, Dr Carol Coulter said: “While some of the wide disparities between different parts of the country may reflect different court and recording practice, they must also reflect different practices on the part of Tusla/the Child and Family Agency in bringing applications. This may reflect a greater use of voluntary care in some parts of the country, or higher levels of family support.”
She said more research was needed to establish the reasons for the wide variations in the number of applications around the country. Tusla pointed out that there were 66 fewer children in care in 2015 (6,388) compared to 2014.
Meanwhile, the Ombudsman for Children’s Office (OCO) and Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) have signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) regarding the exchange of information between the two organisations. The agreement is the first of its kind between the two organisations and the Ombudsman for Children, Dr Niall Muldoon, said: “The MOU will ensure that complaints or information received from the public are channelled to the appropriate office in a timely manner and in the best interests of the child involved.”