Revealed: 5 young homeless abused while in care

FIVE young people who became homeless in Cork city had been abused while in care, a report has revealed.

Child welfare experts also found that while family breakdown and neglect were central to young people becoming homeless, state services had further failed to address the problems.

The study — Out of Home, Young People in Cork City — was written by Dr Paula Mayock and Nicola Carr from the children’s research centre in Trinity College Dublin.

It detailed the experiences of 37 homeless people aged between 14 and 25 years.

Dr Mayock said the report illustrated failings within the child protection system.

In many cases, it emerged, problems experienced by the young people could have been prevented.

“They have relatively little faith in the people and agencies who are supposed to be there in a protective role,” she said.

Data compiled for the research project also showed a climb in numbers of homeless under-18s in recent years in the HSE South area and a similar rise in homelessness among the 18 to 26-year-old age category in Cork city, with the numbers presenting to Cork Simon doubling from 47 in 2001 to 96 in 2006.

The research, funded by the HSE South, shows 20 of the people who feature in the report had a history of state care.

In 13 cases, young people had spent extended periods in residential and/or foster care and the report states: “Practically all had experienced multiple care placements which impacted negatively on their sense of security and stability. Five had experienced abuse in a care setting [one case in Britain].

“The inadequacy of appropriate leaving-care preparation and aftercare provision was highlighted in young people’s accounts.”

The abuse took the form of physical and emotional abuse and sexual abuse in one case.

In another 10 cases, the young people experienced abuse within their family, “characterised by descriptions of physical, emotional and/or sexual abuse and neglect and/or domestic violence in the family situation”.

Other common themes included family conflict, domestic abuse, drug problems, learning difficulties and mental health problems.

In its recommendations the report calls for systematic monitoring and evaluation of foster and residential care placements.

It also recommends that the HSE, in collaboration with partner agencies, should develop an information campaign aimed at raising awareness of youth homelessness and of the services available to young people, parents and professionals, as well as targeting schools.

* www.tcd.ie/childrensresearchcentre.

‘There’s no choice: It’s a hostel or the street’

SHARON, aged 19, explained the problems young people confront on leaving care: “... a lot of people that I was in care with, a lot of them are on the streets. Like, they’re girls and guys and the youngest is only 17. And I think when you’re in care you don’t have a clue basically. Like, I didn’t have any family contact really so, in a way, they’re kind of raising you and they’re kind of family to you. And then they say to you: ‘You’re 18, here’s the door, out you go’, kind of thing.”

She went on to describe the negative experience of seeking private rented sector accommodation: “It’s very hard to get any suitable accommodation for rent allowance, no place takes it. Everything is a dive hole, do you know what I mean? And the landlords don’t want to do nothing for you.”

Darren, who was 21, did not want to stay in an adult hostel but had no option: “I went to the homeless unit and I said: ‘Basically I’m homeless like’, and, ‘Is there anything you can do?’ She said: ‘You can go to a hostel’. And that hostel like has a really, really bad name for violence, drinking and drugs and so on and so forth. And I said to her: ‘I don’t want to go to that hostel’. And she basically said: ‘You’re homeless, you haven’t got a choice, it’s either that or live on the streets’.”

Three young people, Marty, 22, Donna, 19, and Fiona, 17, described their struggles with depression: “I often feel depressed. I feel depressed all the time if you ask me.” — Marty

“I grew into depression. Everyone noticed that my self-harming grew worse at one stage. I did have to go to hospital but it wasn’t that bad because I’m a superficial cutter. I didn’t do it anymore. I managed to overcome it.” — Donna

“There seems to be a lot of people self-harming now... And that’s not being asked about or being covered by anyone. In fact it’s being shunned.” — Fiona.


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