This is the response of one young person asked about their foster family as part of research into the experiences of separated children who come to Ireland seeking protection.
The research, “Foster Care and Supported Lodgings for Separated Asylum Seeking Young People in Ireland: The views of young people, carers and stakeholders”, was commissioned by Barnardos and the HSE to evaluate the impact of the changes that have been made in recent years in how care is provided to these young people, who arrive in Ireland alone often fleeing conflict in their home countries.
Since the publication of the Ryan report, the State has made a number of changes in how it cares for separated children. The most obvious change has been to move the majority of these young people into foster care or supported lodgings, which is a slightly more independent form of foster care. Key among the changes have been the abolition of hostel care, which was criticised for many years for providing little care support for often very vulnerable young people.
Speaking at the launch of the research report, the author Dr Muireann Ní Raghallaigh from the UCD School of Applied Social Science, University College Dublin said: “The research shows the enormous improvement that has been made in terms of the care being provided to separated children. These young people obviously face numerous challenges both before they arrive in Ireland and after they get here and as a result they can have very complex needs.”
“While foster care and supported lodgings are working well for the majority of young people, one of the clear findings of the report is the need to ensure that the care offered reflects the individual needs of each child.”
Dr Ní Raghallaigh continued, “This means having a flexible system with a suite of care options available. In particular it points to the need to recruit more foster carers, especially in the Dublin area. In addition, it is really important that all carers receive intensive and ongoing training and support to help them meet the specific needs of these young people.”
Mary Kenny, Manager of the HSE National Office for Unaccompanied Minors, said: “We are very pleased that the research reflects the high level of care that the majority of separated children receive in Ireland.”
“There has been an enormous amount of work done in recent years to share the expertise built up by the Team for Separated Children Seeking Asylum with local social workers across the country to allow these children to move into foster care that meets their needs and provides them with stable and loving care. The research shows that this has been working well for young people, social workers and carers alike, which is what everyone wants. The research gives us a good picture of the particular challenges in providing care for this very vulnerable group and is a helpful reflection of their experiences of care.”
According to Barnardos, the research findings were overwhelmingly positive and the improvement in care for separated children was very welcome. However, the children’s charity noted that the issue of moving young people into Direct Provision when they turned 18 remained a serious concern.
Barnardos’ Head of Advocacy, Catherine Joyce, said: “This research shows the huge uncertainty and fear that the current policy causes for young people and the impact that moving to Direct Provision has on them.”
“As one young person said in the report ‘Nobody will come to you, even if you’re sick, nobody will come to your room to ask you are you OK. Even if they didn’t see you for the whole day, nobody cares. I just sit in my room and I cry and cry and cry and cry.’ We have had many reports in recent years about the failure of our State policy to treat children with the respect, compassion and care we should have. In twenty years time, will we look back in horror at the way vulnerable children who come to Ireland looking for help and safety, who live in our communities and go to our schools are shunned as soon as they turn 18?”
(Produced by UCD University Relations)