State urged not to ‘fail’ children in care after they turn 18

THE state will be failing its responsibility as a “parent” to children in care if it does not make statutory provision to support over- 18-year-olds within the system, children’s charity Barnardos has said.

Once a teenager turns 18 the state does not have to maintain care services.

But with the Child Care amendment bill set to be debated in the Seanad today, an Alliance group, including Focus Ireland, Barnardos and the Irish Foster Care Association, is lobbying the Government to make provision for this age group.

Section 45 of the Child Care Act states the HSE “may” continue to provide aftercare.

Norah Gibbons, director of advocacy at Barnardos, said “may” must be changed to “shall” in order to protect vulnerable children past their 18th birthday.

“Every child in the care of the state needs aftercare. The state has been their parent, and has seen good reason to take them into care, and this cannot just stop at 18.”

Ms Gibbons said in the light of the Ryan report, it was incumbent on the Government to not only support after-care services but make it a statutory requirement.

“We are calling on public representatives to make this happen. Every other child has the protection of their family after they turn 18,” she said.

Research by Focus Ireland in 2000 found two-thirds of clients who had been in care had experienced homelessness within two years of turning 18.

Director of Advocacy at Focus Ireland Mike Allen said placing aftercare services on a statutory footing would save money for the state in the long run.

Meanwhile, the mother of a 17-year-old Waterford girl in foster care said she believes her daughter will be forgotten by the system once she turns 18.

The teen was placed in voluntary care by her mother who could no longer cope with her daughter’s drug habit and behaviour.

“The service is not adequate and once she turns 18 there will be nothing there for her.”


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