A worrying 179 children went missing from Irish state care facilities last year, according to Child and Family Agency Tusla, the highest it has been in the last few years.
The figures, which were released to The Irish Times, have caused several children's charities, including Barnardos, to raise serious concerns over how children are being cared for.
Of the children who went missing, 91 were from Dublin.
Children are reported missing from state care when carers do not know where they are or could be, and there is concern for their safety.
The protocol for reporting these missing children is different from when children in care return home late or leave grounds without permission.
The children in these cases, who were all located, are recognised as being vulnerable and at risk.
Children’s charity Barnardos said it was “not surprised” by the rise in the number of children who go missing each year.
Its head of advocacy June Tinsley told The Irish Times that “unfortunately, this is not a new issue from our experience over the past number of years”.
“The inadequacies in the system are perpetuating the problem . . . Why is that child running away and who are they spending their time with? We are obviously pleased that the vast majority of the missing children are located, but we need to ensure the safety of every child in care.”
Social Care Ireland spokesman Noel Howard said that “any child” who goes missing from care raises serious issues.
Tusla work with An Garda Síochána when these cases arise.