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Child Care (Amendment) Bill 2015
Bills
Snippet Contents:

I have heard that in some cases children were transferred to a different county - in one case this happened in the middle of their leaving certificate - because the follow-on care plan was going to be in that county.
I pay special tribute to all the foster parents throughout the country who have opened their doors to provide a family setting for many children in State care who are in need. I understand that 45% of children who have been in foster families remain as part of those families when they become adults. This is a testimony to the care and love they have received in foster care, and credit is due to their foster parents in this regard.
Young adults who do not remain in a family setting or who leave residential care have additional needs. It is imperative that a detailed and constructive plan is in place to help them take steps into adulthood and assist them to become independent adults who will be able to provide for themselves in future life. As the Minister has said, the Child and Family Agency will carry out assessments of each individual's needs in education, financing and budgetary matters, training and employment, health and well-being, personal social development, accommodation and family support. These vital elements are needed to support a child transitioning to adulthood or independent living.
The Minister also said that cross-departmental support is required, and I understand that he is meeting personnel from various Departments. We look forward to the outcome. It is vital that every child or young adult must be involved in the preparation of this plan. Many of us who have children who have gone to college know the importance of the family unit in supporting and guiding them in their life choices and helping them to become independent young adults. Those of us whose sons or daughters attended college in a different county know how much they looked forward to coming home at the weekend to a warm house with a home-cooked meal ready for them. For some, however, these simple things are not available as they may have no home or family to return to. It is vital, therefore, that this Bill goes through as quickly as possible in order that each person who wishes to avail of aftercare services can do so.
We must remember that many of these young people living in residential care came from dysfunctional families. Some would not have the life skills for independent living and many would not know how to prepare a cooked meal. They may not know how to maintain tidy and clean accommodation nor be able to budget or manage their finances.
There are those who on reaching 18 may feel they have had enough of State care and dealing with State agencies and may therefore want to disengage at that stage. If they change their minds six or 12 months later, however, it is good that they can re-engage and will be guaranteed that a care plan will be ready for them within three months. That is to be welcomed.
This country has always required a national strategy to provide a co-ordinated approach in order that no matter where one lives, one will have access to the same level of service. Sometimes services can be better in one area than another, but we want the same level of service throughout the country. We need a national policy devised to provide pathways for young people to transition from residential care to independent living. We also need to provide for different types of transition to suit the needs of individuals. This Bill is certainly going in that direction to provide these strategies.
While it is all well and good to put legislation in place, we must have the funding to make it a reality. For example, due to cutbacks in Kerry we lost the aftercare support worker service, which is not in place now. Funding must be put in place to recruit the necessary personnel to make this a reality.
Support must be put in place if a young person returns to the home, including a dedicated aftercare support worker and psychological services for the family and young person involved. It can be difficult for a young person who has had to leave the family home due to difficulties to go back and live full-time again with their families. Supported lodgings are required to enable young people to experience independent living while still having a supervisory element in their lives. This could be someone, not a foster parent, who would flag up problems to the appropriate quarter before things go seriously wrong. Centres could provide a step-down, short-term placement for young people, helping them to move on to fully independent living. Young people could avail of advice in drop-in centres, for example, on parenting skills, peer support and counselling. Dedicated aftercare support workers could link in regularly with young people.
When young people reach 18 years of age they are referred to the adult services, so perhaps those services could be extended.