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Moving teens to Direct Provision causes “uncertainty and fear”

The report from UCD, which was commissioned by the HSE and Barnardos shows that there is a big need to recruit foster carers, especially in Dublin.

A NEW REPORT commissioned by the HSE and Barnardos looks at what happens to separated children seeking protection in Ireland – with the charity saying it is concerned about the policy of moving teens into Direct Provision at age 18.

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 to evaluate the impact of the changes that have been made in recent years in how care is provided to these young people. They arrive in Ireland alone, often fleeing conflict in their home countries.

Changes

Since the publication of the Ryan report, the State has made a number of changes in caring for separated children. Hostel care has been abolished, and the majority of the children have been moved into foster care or supported lodgings.

The report’s author Dr Muireann Ní Raghallaigh of UCD’s School of Applied Social Science 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.

She said that one of its findings is the need to ensure that the care reflects the individual needs of each child, which means having a flexible system with a suite of care options available. It points to the need to recruit more foster carers, especially in the Dublin area, who should receive intensive and ongoing training and support.

Barnardos said that the findings were overwhelmingly positive. However, the children’s charity said that the issue of moving young people into Direct Provision when they turned 18 remained a serious concern.

These DP centres are completely unsuitable and only serve to exacerbate the vulnerability of these young adults, many of whom have been through long and traumatic journeys and/or have been in care for a long time

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.’

She said: “In 20 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?”

Other key issues of concern included:

  • Whether it is appropriate to place all separated children in foster care and supported lodgings
  • A significant number of young people have not had positive experiences in their first family placements
  • The long and extended periods that some separated children spend waiting for a final decision on their asylum cases
  • In many instances this has affected the child’s mental well-being and may cause distress for the child and the foster family
  • The lack of travel documents for separated children can prevent them from going on holidays with foster families or going on on educational trips
  • There is great need for language supports for separated children in the locations where they are being fostered

Older children

The report also shows that there is need for the provision of educational supports for separated children who have ‘aged out’ while in foster care.

It found that the lack of suitable foster placements meant that it was hard to match separated children with appropriate carers, and this could lead to disruption if placements break down.

When children turn 18 can the HSE can no longer provide them with care supports. They can experience uncertain living arrangements, mental health difficulties and vulnerability to prostitution and trafficking.

The research highlights that the benefits of foster care could be undone when separated young people are moved to the direct provision system.

It also notes that there is a lack of tracking or follow-up within the HSE, with a lack of resources available to social workers to follow up on cases and to provide information on their situation once children turn 18.

Barnardos has a number of recommendations, including specialist foster carers; State support of foster parents of separated children over 18; and examining the possibility of opening ‘leaving care hostels’ for young people still going through the asylum process.

Column: Ireland’s treatment of asylum seekers is unfair – and bad value for money>

Read: 53 people seeking asylum have died in State care>

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