Printed in The Irish Times written by Jennifer Hough
The Health Service Executive’s (HSE) assistant national director for children and families has called for aftercare services to be provided for all children leaving the care system.
Phil Garland, who was appointed to the role last November, said he wanted to see the state becoming a life-long parent for children in care.
Under the Childcare Act, Irish children have the option of accessing aftercare services from the HSE until they are 21 years.
Mr Garland said people may still need support when they are 40 or 60, not just between 18 and 21 years.
New legislation which could allow for this is being considering by the Oireachtas.
Focus Ireland has launched an online campaign demanding that a legal right to aftercare for vulnerable young people leaving state care is included in the legislation.
The bill goes to committee stage in the Seanad today and the charity is keen to re-galvanise public support for its long running campaign.
The internet campaign is to step up pressure on the Government from now until the bill goes to the Dáil later this term.
Focus Ireland stressed that the provision of aftercare for young people would actually save the government money across many areas including emergency accommodation, rehab services and the criminal justice system and other related services which may be required for young people who may fall into difficulties upon leaving care when aftercare is not in place.
Focus Ireland also welcomed Mr Garland’s recognition that children seeking asylum are being failed by the state.
Fine Gael Immigration & Integration Spokesman Denis Naughten said the HSE had to protect all children regardless of nationality, and immediately insure that the proper systems are put in place to protect the most vulnerable of them.
"In 2009, one in every four migrant children placed in the care of the HSE by the gardaí went missing, (45 out of 180). In 2007, 32 separated children went missing from the care of the HSE, in 2008, 22 went missing. The numbers in 2009 increased but there is complete inaction from the Fianna Fáil Government and the HSE. This is nothing short of appalling," Mr Naughten said.
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