Almost 6,000 children are currently living in care in Ireland, with nearly 90% of those in foster care. As of January 2023, only 84% of children in care had an allocated social worker; 873 children did not have this support.
There have been a number of reports and recommendations on children in care in recent years but have these been sufficiently acted on? Through an in-depth investigation, our team will examine what the State is doing to tackle the issue and expose inadequate action.
Tusla - the Child and Family Agency - had a funding deficit for a number of years that was addressed in Budget 2021. However, with hundreds of children still not allocated a social worker, this project will investigate spending by the agency and whether children in care and young people in the aftercare system are getting the support they need.
People who have gone through the care system will be at the centre of this investigation in order to find out what needs to be improved to give children in care the best possible future.
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WHAT'S THE STORY?
There have been a number of reports that identify ways in which children who have been in the care system are more likely to run into significant challenges in their life.
Although the vast majority of children in care do not come into contact with the justice system, those in care are over-represented in the prison system here. Over 40% of children in Oberstown Children Detention Campus were either in care or had significant involvement with Tusla prior to their detention, according to its latest report.
A 2019 report from the Irish Penal Reform Trust found that there is a lack of data in Ireland on the interaction between children in care and the criminal justice system, recommending that Tusla develop a mechanism to record this. It also found a lack of coordinated policy between Tusla, care providers and the Gardaí.
Children in care also account for over 40% of missing person reports, according to a Garda review, with many children reported missing on numerous occasions.
Around 450 to 500 young people leave the care system annually when they turn 18 - identified as a significant issue for those in care, with a 2022 report by Focus Ireland labelling this a ‘cliff edge’ for those leaving care.
Many young adults who participated in this report said they felt secure before their 18th birthday but that this support was stepped back or ended in some cases after this. Accommodation was also a significant concern. The charity reported that more than a third of care leavers they worked with in Dublin in 2019 were either homeless or at risk of homelessness.