Children leaving care system need support

Children leaving the care system may require greater levels of support and flexibility around accommodation options, according to a new longitudinal study.

Children leaving care system need support

Research tracking the lives of 16 young people aged 18 and leaving care has found that two had already experienced homelessness, including one young person who was homeless turning 18, and that just five were in designated aftercare accommodation.

It also shows that while seven young people had had only one care placement, six had between two and four placements and three had more than five placements.

On leaving care, six young people were unemployed but in education, while another six were in neither, although five were waiting on a place.

‘How the Little Things Add Up: A Qualitative Longitudinal Study of Leaving State Care in Ireland’ was conducted by Natalie Glynn, a PhD candidate at the Trinity Research in Childhood Centre (TRiCC) School of Social Work and Social Policy.

Ms Glynn said that, despite the numbers, she believed the 16 young people she interviewed were relatively stable compared with others leaving care.

The research is the first element of three studies tracking the young people over a period of time.

Ms Glynn said one issue that has already come to light is the fact that State support for education was dependent on constant progression — meaning no repeats or switching courses at the same level — and also that much designated aftercare accommodation tended to be for a period of 18 months — a situation she said presented a problem for people who needed stability in the current housing crisis, when private rented property is at a premium and care leavers are competing with young professionals for a place to live.

The research will be presented at a conference at Trinity College Dublin today. The Children in Care Research Forum will also hear a presentation by Abbey Hyde, associate professor at the school of nursing, midwifery and health systems at University College Dublin.

Last year, the Irish Examiner looked at research Prof Hyde had conducted into the sexual health and relationship education needs of children in care, which indicated that they are more likely to engage in sexual activity at a younger age, and that the incidence is greater again among those in residential care.

The research also showed that many care providers, including foster carers, have been wary of helping young people access contraception for fear of being seen to encourage underage sex.

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