This symposium examines the system and operation of voluntary care removals of children in Irish state care. In 2012, 62% of all admission of children into state care were through this method (Tusla, Child and Family Agency, 2014), yet we know very little about its operation (Burns et al., Forthcoming). Due to a lack of empirical research in this area, it is not possible to say why such a high proportion of the children received into care in Ireland are placed there via the voluntary care route. There is some anecdotal evidence in certain CFA areas of a planned diminution of the use of voluntary care in favour of more admissions to care through the District Court (O’Leary and Christie, 2014). The seminar will address the following questions: Does voluntary care work, and for whom does it work? Should voluntary care be modernised, and if so, in what ways? Are there sufficient transparency and accountability mechanisms in place to protect the rights of parents and children? How ‘voluntary’ is voluntary care when a parent(s) signs a child into voluntary care?
This interactive workshop has three main aims: Firstly, to facilitate a debate on the strengths and weaknesses of this child removal model. Secondly, to compare the Irish voluntary care systems to other European countries. Thirdly, to extend the debate beyond the conference, the symposium will double as a research data-collection event and it is the facilitators’ intention to write up the key themes and data from the symposium for a journal article to disseminate the arguments expressed at the symposium. Fourthly, we also plan to use the #swconf15 Twitter hastag to garner additional perspectives on voluntary care from social media commentators.