May 5th 2020
EPIC supported mental health champions Pieta House to raise awareness of mental health difficulties faced by some of society’s most vulnerable – Children in Care and Care Leavers
With the annual event of ‘Darkness Into Light’ behind us, we find ourselves in a reflective, emotive and hopeful time.
This annual event struck a deep chord with the EPIC team and with the EPIC National Youth Council who this year sadly lost a true champion with the passing of a friend and colleague Shane Griffin. For those of you who do not know Shane, we can tell you that he was a true friend to everyone he met, a loving and devoted father with the biggest and kindest heart. Shane spent much of his adult life passionately advocating for improving the experiences of children in care and care leavers as a result of his own traumatic experience of state care.
This year we did not just lose a friend but an ambassador for our care community, one whose dedication, authenticity and commitment to improve the lives of children in care and care leavers cannot be replaced. While Shane’s passing was a deeply troubling time for members of our care community and those that support them, the sad reality faced us all that, as professionals, we know all too many care leavers who have not been adequately supported to overcome their trauma and in turn are struggling immensely as adults who have now ‘left the system’.
On Saturday morning, May 9th at 05.30am members of the EPIC National Youth Council and the EPIC staff team spent time together online in support of ‘Darkness Into Light’ a day that has huge significance for many children in care and care leavers. We spent this time remembering and celebrating family members and friends, many with care experience that we have tragically lost. We have lost these individuals as a result of their childhood experiences and due to a system that is not adequately resourced to support the mental health needs of those who have suffered trauma, and who have experienced and survived things that most people could not even imagine.
“As a mental health service user, I know how vital good mental health support is. As a care experienced person, I’ve had to face some additional difficulties in my life. I am still learning coping skills to help me overcome my trauma. Learning these skills, and having good support is helping me live healthier and safer. Every year I support Pieta Houses Darkness into Light in memory of my best friend who I lived in care with”
– Siobhan (Youth Council Member)
In February of this year EPIC launched its manifesto for the next Programme for Government. This contained six recommendations to improve the lived experience of children in care and care leavers. The following were two of our key ‘asks’ for the next Government.
1. Improve Data Collation on children and young people in the care system:
Increase data collated and published on children in care and include a longitudinal study on children in care into adulthood. Data on educational outcomes for children in care from primary, secondary, post leaving cert and 3rd level education is also essential. This data should be benchmarked against children and young people in the general population to see where additional supports are needed to improve outcomes of children in care and beyond.
2. Improve Mental Health Support:
All children and young adults in care must be provided with a variety of dedicated mental health supports, including therapeutic support, to enable them to deal with their experience of trauma and to help them build appropriate coping skills and resilience. The State must provide all necessary supports and interventions and must immediately stop sending children and young people outside of this jurisdiction for specialist care. Dual supports to encompass addiction and mental health must be rolled out.
With the current government formations taking place, EPIC and all children in care along with care leavers, call on the next government to prioritise their care, protection, rights, outcomes, and support. We call on you to think about your own children, grandchildren, brothers and sisters and the difficulties they may have or the problems that they have overcome and to reflect on whether or not they could have done so without the support of their family.
This is the harrowing reality faced by many young people leaving care today. They do not have the family support systems that most of us take for granted. However, the State, as the corporate parent, has this responsibility and should ensure that all children and young people in the care system are given the best chance in life to reach their full potential.
What is ‘good enough’ when it comes to the care and mental health supports of those affected by trauma?
Contact: Suzanne O’Brien, Participation Officer (01 8727661 or 087 1432832)
Notes to Editor:
About EPIC: EPIC is a national voluntary organisation that works with and for children and young people who are currently living in care or who have experience of living in care. This includes those in residential care, foster care, relative care, hostel, high support and special care. EPIC also works with young people preparing to leave care and those in aftercare. EPIC’s National Advocacy and Participation programmes are designed to ensure children and young adults in care have a voice and are listened to on issues affecting their lives. EPIC is a national service with offices in Dublin, Cork, Limerick and Galway. For more information see: www.epiconline.ie
Services during the COVID 19 crisis: While EPIC has closed its offices in Dublin, Cork, Limerick and Galway, it has still been able to maintain its service and continue to provide support for the care community during this crisis. Any parent, guardian or professional with a question or concern about a child or young person in the care system can contact EPIC at any time https://www.epiconline.ie/.