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'I had sex with 40 women... I never did use condoms': Call for increased sex-ed in care homes

A series of reports produced by Tusla and the HSE has found a need for a boost in sex education.

Image: Shutterstock/111foto

A LACK OF sexual education among children in care has been identified as a serious problem in a new report.

A series of in-depth interviews with young people aged 18 to 22 who have recently left care found that all except one had experienced sex between the ages of 12 and 17.

These new findings come in new reports published by the HSE Crisis Pregnancy Programme and Tusla, the child and family agency.

A number of studies have looked at how the issue is dealt with by those in care and the people around them.

Sexual experience of young people in care 

The respondents were found to be generally unaware or indifferent to practising safer sex.

“I never used contraception at all. I would never have paid heed to anything like that… I don’t know what it is,” one of them said.

Another participant was described as taking a tone that was “predominantly of indifference rather than self-criticism”.

He explained:

I have had unprotected sex before I got with my girlfriend. I had sex with 40 women… I never did use condoms or any safety… it was just me being me.

He then said that he had become paranoid and had taken an STI test, but that it had not shown up positive for anything, and he currently has sex with his girlfriend without a condom.

report The new report Source: HSE

When young women were asked about their use of contraception, they said that they generally relied on the male sex partner to provide a condom.

A number of the young women reported using hormonal contraceptives after being prompted to by either their foster mother or social worker.

However, a number of them also reported adverse effects – specifically in relation to underlying mental health issues – which led to the contraceptives being abandoned.

Talking about her use of the pill, one participant said:

I went off the pill then because it set my hormones all over the place and I can’t cope with crying and hormones and breaking down and all. So I came off that and just started using condoms again and sometimes you wouldn’t even use them.

Peer pressure and a lack of education were identified as reasons that contraception was frequently not used.

What needs to be done?

In this report, issues specific to young people in care were noted as impacting on their sexual experiences.

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These included the care leavers having had conflicted relationships with members of their birth families, feeling different and stigmatised when compared to other children and having to move a lot.

Speaking about the findings Tusla’s director of policy and strategy Cormac Quinlan said: 

The research provides a strong evidence base to support practice in relation to meeting the sexual health and sexuality education needs of young people in care.

He went on to say that a “robust action plan” had been developed to deal with the individual actions recommended in the report.

The new research was also positive about the role that social workers and foster families had already played in educating children in care about sex and relationships, but that a more comprehensive approach was needed.

On this, the HSE’s head of its Sexual Health and Crisis Pregnancy Programme said:

There is a greater need to respond in a more coordinated way to the contraceptive, sexual healthcare needs of sexually active young people in a supportive way.

The reports can be read in full on the HSE’s website here. 

Read: This Italian porn star has offered to teach sex education in schools

Also: We need to create a solution to abortion. Children as young as 8 need to get sex education in school

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