Fostering legislation in Northern Ireland

Fostering is a devolved issue in the UK. Legislation about foster care therefore varies across the UK. In Northern Ireland, the main legislative body is the Northern Ireland Assembly. There is a wide range of law and guidance that has relevance for foster care in Northern Ireland.

The information we have provided below is a starting point to the legislation and guidance relating to children and young people in foster care in Northern Ireland, rather than a comprehensive list.


The legislative framework for Northern Ireland's child protection system is set out in The Children (Northern Ireland) Order 1995. This sets out parental responsibilities and rights and the duties and powers public authorities have to support children.

Adoption and Children Act 2002

Contact with Children Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1996

The creation of the regional Safeguarding Board for Northern Ireland (SBNI) was set out in law in the Safeguarding Board Act (Northern Ireland) 2011. This also established five Safeguarding Panels to support the work of the SBNI at a Health and Social Care Trust (HSCT) level.

The Children's Services Co-operation Act (Northern Ireland) 2015 requires public authorities to co-operate in contributing to the wellbeing of children and young people in the areas of:

  • physical and mental health
  • enjoyment of play and leisure
  • learning and achievement
  • living conditions, rights and economic wellbeing.

Under Section 5 of the Criminal Law Act (Northern Ireland) 1967, it is an offence not to report a 'relevant offence' to the police. This includes offences against children.

Safeguarding Board for Northern Ireland Procedures Manual

GEM Scheme: Going the Extra Mile. The role and contribution of carers who continue to provide care, support and accommodation for young people aged 18 - 21 years whom they have previously fostered.

The Arrangements for Placement of Children (General) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1996

The Foster Placement (Children) (Amendment) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2012

The Children (Private Arrangements for Fostering) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1996 

The Foster Placement (Children) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1996

The Placement of Children with Parents etc. Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1996 

The Representations Procedure (Children) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1996

The Review of Children's Cases Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1996

Children (Leaving Care) Act (Northern Ireland) 2002

The Children Leaving Care Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2005


Guidance & Regulations Volume 3 - Family Placements and Private Fostering

The 'A Life Deserved: "Caring" for Children and Young People in Northern Ireland' strategy aims to improve the wellbeing of children and young people who are already in care, at risk of entering care and those children and young people who have recently left care.

Independent Review of Children's Social Care in Northern Ireland. Led by Professor Ray Jones, the review engaged with parents, children and young people and those working within and alongside children's social care services, including foster and kinship foster carers, to make recommendations for improvements and changes to children's social care.

Young People's Strategy

Co-operating to Safeguard

For more information, contact the advice and information service