Children and young people

We are working towards improving the quality of care for all children in residential settings across Ireland.

We inspect children’s residential centres, special care units and foster care settings against the National Standards for Children’s Residential Centres and National Standards for Foster Care Services, produced by the Department of Health and Children (DoHC). These standards set out how children should be looked after in these social care centres.

Inspectors from the Authority visit centres to check that children are being looked after properly, in line with our standards. Children and parents can read the standards to see what should and shouldn’t be happening in places where children are being looked after.

The Authority has published National Standards for the Protection and Welfare of Children For HSE Children and Family Services and will inspect against these Standards to ensure children receive safe and quality services.

National Children's Standards

National Standards for Special Care Units

Special care units are secure, residential facilities for children in care aged between 11 and 17 years. These children are detained under a High Court care order for a short-term period of stabilization when their behaviour poses a real and substantial risk of harm to their life, health, safety, development or welfare. They are also kept in a special care unit where placement in such a unit is considered necessary for their care and protection.

HIQA has developed new National Standards for Special Care Units in preparation for changes to the legislation which governs us. When the relevant changes to the law are made, all special care units – run by the Child and Family Agency (Tusla), or run by a private organisation or a voluntary body – will have to be registered with HIQA.

Read the Guide to the Standards or download the Poster here.

The previous standards were produced by the Department of Health and Children in 2000 for special care units - centres where children may be detained on foot of a 'Special Care Order' as defined by the Children’s Act 2000.

National Standards for Foster Care, DoHC

These standards were produced by the Department of Health and Children in 2003 and apply to foster care services provided under the Child Care (Placement of Children in Foster Care) Regulations, 1995 and the Child Care (Placement of Children with Relatives) Regulations, 1995.

A children's version of the standards has also been produced, called the Children's book about Foster Care.

Inspection and registration

The standards, above, are used by inspectors from the Authority when they visit to check that an appropriate standard of care is in place in children’s centres. All inspection reports following these visits are published on our website. We inspect children’s centres to ensure that the child has the protection and care necessary for his or her well being.

We inspect special care units every year to ensure that each young person in the special care unit has the protection and care necessary for his or her well being. We protect each child’s right to:

  • preserve his or her identity
  • express his or her views freely and to have them accorded due weight
  • have privacy
  • be protected from abuse.

Children Detention Schools

In 2008, the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs appointed the Chief Inspector of Social Services within the Authority and named inspectors to carry out inspections of children detention schools.

Children detention schools are inspected against Standards and Criteria for Children Detention Schools produced by the Irish Youth Justice Service (IYJS). The Authority began inspecting children detention schools in 2008. Each children detention school is inspected annually and inspection reports are available on the Authority’s website.

More information

Please read our standards for further information. To find out more about how the inspection process works, see our section on inspection.