Almost 6,000 children are currently living in care in Ireland, with more than 90% of those in foster care. As of September 2020, 94% of children in care had an allocated social worker, meaning almost 350 children did not have this support.
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 - the Child and Family Agency - 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 Tulsa develop a mechanism to record this. It also found a lack of coordinated policy between Tulsa, 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 2018 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.
HELP US INVESTIGATE
There have been a number of reports and recommendations on children in care in recent years but have these been acted on and has enough been done to improve their future? We want to investigate what the Government is doing to tackle the issue.
Tusla had a funding deficit for a number of years that was addressed in Budget 2021. However, with many children still not allocated a social worker, we want to examine what the funding is being spent on by the agency and whether children in the care system and young people in the aftercare system are getting the support they need.
Finally, we will talk to people who have gone through the care system to find out what they think needs to be improved in order to give children in care the best possible future.
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