20th Anniversary Article by Suzanne O’Brien

It’s our 20th Anniversary and we are celebrating 20 years of being EPIC by posting articles every month about EPIC. This month is an article written by EPIC Participation Officer and Care Leaver Suzanne O’Brien.   In 2012, I was 23 years of age and in my fifth year of a social care degree. I was in the beginning stages of completing my thesis on ‘Aftercare’ and finding myself more and more frustrated with the lack of data/ information and outcomes on care leavers in Ireland. I soon took this frustration to my college tutor who simply said, “All I had to do was go to EPIC”. This was said in such a way that suggested that to do so would somehow give me the holy grail of access to the information and young people that I needed for my thesis. That same night I went home and googled EPIC. What I found was a website that held lots of information about care, legislation, rights, and videos exploring what it meant to be in care. This organisation was set up to support children in care and those with care experience, but I as a care leaver had never heard of them? I never knew that they could have helped me when I needed help the most. Why was that? In 1997, at nine years of age and through no fault of my own, I became a child in care. In 1999, my mam then passed away and I soon became reliant on the state to care for me up until my 18th birthday. Throughout my childhood, I was the...

20th Anniversary Article – EPIC’s Advocacy Service

          EPIC 20th Anniversary Article Series  EPIC’s Advocacy Service Did you know that there are currently just under 6,000 Children and Young People in the care of Tusla? These Children and Young People live in a variety of different settings, most live in Foster care, while the remaining live in residential services including Special Care, Detention and Aftercare. EPIC offers advocacy support to all Children and Young people in the care of Tusla and to Young Adults in aftercare and post leaving care. In 2018, EPIC dealt with 653 advocacy cases. What does Advocacy mean?   Advocacy means informing Children and Young People about their rights, empowering Children and Young People to have a voice and to speak up for themselves, to be part of decisions made about them, and to have access to an independent voice - an Advocate - who will speak on their behalf.  Why is Advocacy such an important part of the work that EPIC does?  Well, there are a number of reasons.  Article 12 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) states that Children and Young People need to be: ‘Listened to and taken seriously’ In 2006 EPIC asked Children and Young People what is was that they most needed from the organisation and they told us that they wanted a service that was there for them and that ensured their voices where heard. In 2009, the Ryan Report recommended that all Children and Young People in care have access to an Independent Advocate. The Ryan Report made it even more important for EPIC to...

20th Anniversary Article – Part Two: An EPIC Journey – 2005 – 2016

          EPIC 20th Anniversary Article Series                                 Part Two: An EPIC Journey - 2005 - 2016                                                                By Jennifer Gargan   In 2011 IAYPIC undertook a renaming and rebranding process and became EPIC.  Frances Fitzgerald, Minister for Children and Youth Affairs launched EPIC in 2012.   During this period, Atlantic Philanthropies invited EPIC to submit a proposal for further funding. This would be their last grant and was a potential opportunity for EPIC to leverage funding not only to build on the Policy and Research work of the previous grant period but also to further develop our core work, direct advocacy work with children and young people.  Atlantic Philanthropies and the One Foundation provided funding for EPIC to develop the next Strategic Plan 2013 – 2015, develop EPIC’s National Advocacy Service,  increase the Research function, build on the Advocacy and Policy work of EPIC and develop New Media communications capacity within the organisation.   In 2012 we expanded the advocacy service with additional staff and opened offices in Cork and Galway.  In 2015 with funding from the Tony Ryan Trust, we expanded our presence in the west with an office in Limerick. Over the next few years the direct work with children and young people went from strength to strength. Between 2012 and 2017 the annual number of Advocacy cases rose from 120 to 589, each and every case representing a child or young person who needed help and support...

20th Anniversary Article – Part One: An EPIC Journey – 2005 – 2016

          EPIC 20th Anniversary Article Series                                 Part One: An EPIC Journey - 2005 - 2016                                                                By Jennifer Gargan   Joining IAYPIC (now EPIC) in July 2005 I had no idea how the organization would change over the next 11 years of my time as CEO. At that time IAYPIC consisted of myself, an Office Manager, a national office in Smithfield and an ambitious Strategic Plan, without sufficient resources to deliver it. Fortunately, the culture and climate within the Children’s sector, the HSE Children and Family Services, the Government and the general public was rapidly changing, bringing about an understanding of the rights of children to be safe, to be heard and to participate in decisions affecting their lives. Over the next few years the development of the National Children’s Strategy, appointment of an Ombudsman for Children, the appointment of the first Minister for Children, the Ryan Report and finally the Children’s Rights referendum brought children to the forefront of the political agenda.  In 2006 IAYPIC’s first members of staff working directly with children were appointed with funding from the HSE Children and Family Services in North Dublin. The Children’s Rights and Participation Officers, affectionately known as CRAP Officers by the young people, soon became aware that what young people really wanted from IAYPIC was a 1:1 advocacy service to provide them with support, advice, help them to be heard, to be involved in decisions about their care and...

National Review Panel Report in to Foster Care abuse case in Galway raises very serious concerns

According to a report from RTE, TUSLA, the Child and Family Agency, will today publish a report by the National Review Panel into a series of failings that occurred in a foster home in county Galway. The Review Panel was delayed in publishing its report until the outcome of a criminal prosecution. The report highlights a number of serious failings and systemic flaws in the management of the case by both the HSE and TUSLA. Terry Dignan, CEO of EPIC, said: “The report raises very serious questions about how this case was managed and how the failings identified will be addressed in the management of similar cases in the future. Underlying at least some of the failings highlighted in the report appears to be the lack of sufficient staff resources to ensure that there was a comprehensive initial assessment of the family, the development of comprehensive risk assessments and safety plans and a regular review and re-assessment of these plans. The serious errors of judgment, flawed assessment and poor decision-making highlighted in the case-management of these children also raises questions about the training and experience of at least some of the staff involved. This in turn appears to have been compounded by the lack of management oversight identified in the report. Ultimately the failure to protect vulnerable young children and the circumstances of this case is completely unacceptable. The reality is that, due to inadequate resourcing, there are many more children in the care system who do not have regular access to a social worker and as a result, are potentially at risk. The recruitment and, more importantly, the...

20th Anniversary Article – A Reflection on Care Day

          EPIC 20th Anniversary Article Series   A Reflection on Care Day and what it means to me as a Care Leaver                                                     By Katelyn Kelly   Care Day is a day that is celebrated each year on the third Friday of February. It looks at the positives for those who are currently in our care system and those who have left the care system, who are known as “Care Leavers.” Care Day is very important, as our society tends to focus on the negatives of the Irish Care System, rather than looking at the positives for those currently living in care and care leavers. Care Day is important for those both in care and for care leavers because it is a day where all of our achievements are acknowledged. We as a society tend to forget that people in care and those who are care leavers have achievements, just like people who do not have care experience, and they need to be recognised and celebrated for them. This day is not only celebrated by those in care or by care leavers, but also by those who support them to achieve their successes such as Foster Carers, Aftercare Workers and Social Workers. Care Day is not only celebrated in Ireland, but all over the world! Care Day shows those who are in care and care leavers that they are not alone, there are others who are going through the same thing as them or have gone through the same thing. Care Day means a lot to me for many...

20th Anniversary Article – A Reflection on EPIC as a Young Person in 2000

        EPIC 20th Anniversary Article Series    A Reflection on being a Young Person Volunteer with IAYPIC in 2000 By Josephine Costello   Wow!!! 20 years of young people in care in Ireland having a voice. My involvement with EPIC began back at the first consultation day in Athlone on the 12thof May 2000. I had just left residential care and I was asked if I would participate in a consultation day regarding young people’s views of being in care and I jumped at the chance. That day opened my eyes to the fact that although my experience of being in care was very positive, not everyone else was so lucky. I remember being sad hearing some of their stories, but I also remember it creating a fire in me to want to be part of the change that was needed. I spoke to Catherine Carty, the then co-ordinator, and said I would like to be more involved. I am pretty sure she would have asked me anyways, as I did not stop talking that day! It was not long after, that Catherine contacted me and asked if I would like to travel with her and Natasha to Austria, to attend the European Youth in Care Conference. What an opportunity! We were able to spend time with other young people discussing issues that we had and things we would like changed. One of the greatest opportunities I had when I was in Austria, was being asked to sit on a panel in front of professionals from all over Europe, and answer questions that would give them...

20th Anniversary Article – Care Leavers Journey

          EPIC 20th Anniversary Article Series   Care Leavers Journey of Participation with EPIC By Members of the EPIC National Youth Council   Why I joined EPIC                                                             I joined EPIC last year because I am currently in care and EPIC works with people in care and in aftercare. I really wanted to contribute to making positive changes in the care system and EPIC is the right place for that. Since I joined EPIC, it has been like a second home for me. It is really welcoming, friendly and loving. We have done lots of great stuff, like meeting the minister, organising Care Day, and having our own monthly meetings. -Reoland Pepa   How I became Involved with EPIC and my Experience of working with EPIC  I first became aware of EPIC when my aftercare worker asked if I would like to participate in a new national group that was being set up to make changes within the HSE. EPIC was going to be facilitating the group called TAG. I worked with EPIC staff for a few years preparing for conferences, giving consultations with HSE and Tusla staff at various levels and doing research into different projects. The EPIC staff were always great at making sure that everyone’s needs were met and that everyone in the group felt safe and supported, even when discussing topics that were quite personal and could have been upsetting for members. As TAG became less active, I was asked if I would like to participate in the National EPIC youth council and so far I have really enjoyed it, both locally...

20th Anniversary Article Series Introduction

                         EPIC 20th Anniversary Article Series Introduction This year is the 20th anniversary of the foundation of the Irish Association of Young People In Care, which in 2011 became EPIC Empowering People In Care. As part of our 20th anniversary celebration we are delighted to present the first of a series of articles which we hope will provide interesting overview on EPIC from our foundation in 1999, to our work today and the future direction of the organisation. The articles are written by individuals and groups who have shared EPIC’s journey in one way or another over the past twenty years. These articles are written by Young People, members of the EPIC Youth Council, current and former members of the EPIC team, Board Members and professionals from other organisations that have worked closely with EPIC and contributed to where we are today. All articles will be available under the News & Events>20th  Anniversary menu tab on our website at https://www.epiconline.ie/topics/20th-anniversary/ We hope that you will enjoy these articles and join us in celebrating our 20th year....

20th Anniversary Article – EPIC The Beginnings

                         EPIC 20th Anniversary Article Series      EPIC – The Beginnings By Mr. Ken Hodgins, former HSE Social Work Team Leader February 2019   The beginnings of IAYPIC – the Irish Association of Young People in Care began as far back as April 1995. The Childcare Committee of the Irish Association of Social Workers (IASW), which I chaired, brought together a group of young people in care alongside other agencies including the Irish Foster Care Association (IFCA) and the Children’s Legal Centre; and the ‘Young People in Care Support Network’ was established.  This group faded away unfortunately after about six months due to lack of support.  The following year, when the IASW was meeting with the Department of Health regarding the setting up of the Irish Social Services Inspectorate (which later became HIQA) the Department offered me an opportunity to bring a group of young people in care, into the Dept. of Health to give their own views on the setting up of the Inspectorate and the Care System overall.  This took place in October 1996, and one of the priority items on the young peoples’ agenda was to receive a commitment from the Dept. of Health to provide funding to set up a professionally run organisation to represent the voice of young people in care and care leavers.  This group met again a few weeks later in an office in Focus Point (which later became Focus Ireland) and I believe that this was when we formally called themselves IAYPIC (following the Australian Organisation AAYPIC, and VOYPIC...

20th Anniversary Article – A personal reflection

                                                       EPIC Anniversary Article Series               A personal reflection on the early days of EPIC By Catherine Carthy – founder of EPIC 24th January 2019   On the 15th January 2000, I began work in the role of National Co-ordinator of the Irish Association of Young People in Care (IAYPIC). It sounds grander than it was, as in reality the organisation was a desk on the top floor of Barnardo’s Head Office in Dublin, a mobile phone and a 2-page project proposal. In the first weeks, I began to draw up plans of how we could action their vision for the organisation. We initially met as a small group of five, but quickly identified a number of key people to be part of a wider management committee. The organisation was still little more than an elaborate proposal with a co-ordinator. Within a number of months, IAYPIC was being recognised as an organisation that represented the views of young people in care and we began to be inundated by requests to participate on boards and fora where the voice of young people in care had been missing heretofore. The National Children’s Strategy was being drafted in those first months of 2000, and John Collins from the Department of Health asked IAYPIC to convene a group of young people with care experience who would give their views on what they thought should be included in a ten-year children’s strategy....

CHILD PROTECTION MUST ALWAYS BE A PRIORITY

28th February 2019 Child protection must always be a priority For every organisation working with children child protection must be the priority above all else. It is of concern that despite such poor findings from a HIQA inspection in January 2018 that it took until January 2019 for Oak Lodge Fostering Services to cease operating. A further announced inspection was carried out in September 2018, but worryingly many significant failings and major non-compliances remained. EPIC commends HIQA for their inspection process. EPIC believes that the provision of an appropriate action-plan for services such as Oak Lodge Fostering Services to improve and meet minimum standards should be considered. Such a plan would be collaborative between HIQA, Tusla and the service provider and have clear deliverables with a realistic timeframe and regular oversight of progress made. A repeat unannounced inspection, or series of inspections where resources allow, could be carried out within a reasonable timeframe to verify progress. A nine-month delay between inspections, such as in the case of Oak Lodge, seems excessive in the case of serious concerns around child protection. Terry Dignan, CEO of EPIC, said: “Too often we are seeing that organisations working with children are not prioritising child-protection through the development of a robust and appropriate child protection framework and the training of staff and volunteers in the protection of children.  With the considerable support and assistance available to organisations in developing frameworks and policies, through organisations like Tusla and others, there is no excuse for any organisation not to have a robust framework of policies and protocols for the protection of children in place and suitable training...

Football Blitz and Flashmob

20th February 2019 #CareDay19 Football Blitz and Flashmob February 20th 2019 Continuing To celebrate children in care Get Vocal, Get Social, Get Involved Last Friday the 15th of February saw EPIC and other organisations around the world celebrating care day. Care Day is the world’s largest celebration of children and young people with care experience. They deserve to be celebrated, on care day, and every day. EPIC is continuing these celebrations on Wednesday the 20th of February in collaboration with Don Bosco to celebrate children and young people in our care community. Check it out on https://careday.ie/ Terry Dignan, CEO of EPIC, said: “EPIC is delighted to be collaborating for the 3rd year with Don Bosco Care in a football blitz, with support from Dublin City Sport and Wellbeing (D.C.C.) and Swim Ireland, in Clontarf between 1 and 3pm, as part of our #CareDay19 celebrations. This is a wonderful event for young care leavers to have some fun and promote health and positivity in care.  Across town, in the centre of Dublin, other young care leavers will participate in a flashmob on Wednesday afternoon. It will be a fun afternoon! So, get vocal, get social and get involved in celebrating the successes and positive achievements of those in care or with care experience this Wednesday.” Ciaran Kenny, Don Bosco said: “Every Tuesday for the last ten years about 20 young people gather to kick a football around in Clontarf. It is a wonderful social outlet for Young People with care experience, a great way for these young people to be part of a community, to have a positive experience, and have...

Press Release #CareDay19

#CareDay19 A global celebration of children in care – February 15th 2019 Get Vocal, Get Social, Get Involved Care Day is the world’s largest celebration of children and young people with care experience. They deserve to be celebrated, on care day, and every day. EPIC is hosting several events around the country to celebrate children and young people in our care community. Check it out on https://careday.ie/ Terry Dignan, CEO of EPIC, said: “EPIC is delighted to be spearheading this year’s Care Day 2019 on the 15th of February. It is an initiative of ‘5 Nations 1 Voice’ – an alliance made up of five children’s rights charities across the U.K. and Ireland: Become in England, EPIC in Ireland, VOYPIC in Northern Ireland, Voices from Care in Wales, and Who Cares? Scotland. This year we are also joined in our celebrations by The Netherlands, New Zealand and Australia. It is such an exciting and positive day internationally, and each year it is growing. Care Day is a day where we are asking you to show your support, get vocal, get social and get involved in celebrating the successes and positive achievements of those in care or with care experience.” Conor, Care-Leaver and student said: “CareDay promotes all the positive stories about care experienced people. There are so many negative stories out there. It is really important for us to be able to counteract the stereotypes” We are delighted that Katherine Zappone T.D, Minister for Children and Youth Affairs will today formally launch Care Day at TU Dublin Tallaght Campus (Room 001) at 10.15am and following this the Children’s Ombudsman,...

Care Day 2019 – #CareDay19

#CareDay19 follow the great events at https://careday.ie #CareDay19 Care Day 2019 is on February 15th.  Care Day (see careday.ie) is the world’s largest celebration of children and young people with care experience. Care experience includes children and young people who are or were cared for by family members with the support of social workers; by foster carers; or children and young people from children’s homes and residential units. They deserve to be celebrated, on care day, and every day. Find out more, join in and keep up with all the great #CareDay19 events happening in Ireland, the UK, and beyond on the CareDay site at careday.ie Care Day 2019 is an opportunity to celebrate the rights of care experienced children and young people, towards a world where young people are proud, fulfilled, are able to thrive and achieve their dreams. We invite every child and young person with experience of care, as well as those who care for and support these young people, to join in this day of united celebration. It is an opportunity to illustrate how care experienced people can feel different to others and why. February 15th 2019 is the next Care Day; and we would encourage everyone to get vocal, get social, and get together in celebration of the care experienced community. Find out more by visiting...
EPIC – Comment on the publication of the Interim Report of the Farrelly Commission of Investigation

EPIC – Comment on the publication of the Interim Report of the Farrelly Commission of Investigation

EPIC – Comment on the publication of the Interim Report of the Farrelly Commission of Investigation It has emerged that families of the victims of abuse at the ‘Grace’ case foster home are deeply upset at the “highly confrontational and adversarial” nature of the Farrelly Commission of Investigation. This is deeply disturbing. The welfare of the families of the victims of this investigation must be paramount. It is imperative to the integrity of this and all future investigations that victims, and the families of victims, are treated at all times with respect and sensitivity. EPIC now calls on the Government to ensure that the concerns of these families are listened to, heard and responded to, to ensure that this is not the experience of those other families yet to give evidence. EPIC supports the granting of a 12-month extension to complete phase 1 of the investigation if this will ensure that the full facts of the case are brought to light. In light of the requirement for a 12-month extension to deal with the unanticipated volume of evidence, EPIC also calls on the government to carry out a review of resources to ensure that the investigation has the capacity to complete this and future investigations within agreed...

Our response to latest HIQA findings

EPIC – Empowering People In Care, has expressed serious concern at the findings by the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) in announced inspections of Oak Lodge and Care Visions Fostering Services. The finding that both services were majorly non-compliant in five of seven standards assessed is of serious concern and that both organisations were found to be majorly non-complaint in safeguarding and child protection and that Care Visions Fostering was found to be majorly non-compliant in the assessment and approval of foster-carers raises obvious serious concerns. EPIC said that it was of particular concern that in the case of Care Visions Fostering there were no safety plans in place for a child placed with foster carers where concerns about the carers were known to the social work team and in another case no visits had occurred with the foster carers two months following a significant event. EPIC CEO Terry Dignan said: “It’s simply not acceptable that any organisation working with vulnerable children would not have adequate child safeguarding and protection systems in place. We have seen time and again the devastating impact on children of failures to have robust reporting systems in place and to respond in a timely and appropriate fashion to allegations. As an organisation that works to make children’s voices heard, the finding that the children placed with foster carers were not always met with as part of the visit is incomprehensible and goes against the fundamental principle of a child-centred approach. We support HIQAs work in highlighting ongoing failures within our childcare services but feel strongly that prompt and appropriate action must be taken...

EPIC statement regarding HIQA Foster care report findings

EPIC – Empowering People In Care, has expressed serious concern at the findings by the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) of major non-compliance with national standards in foster care services operated by the Child and Family Agency, Tusla, in the Dublin South Central, Dublin North City and Cavan / Monaghan areas. EPIC said that it was of particular concern there were twenty findings of non-compliance, either moderate or major, from twenty four standards measured across the three areas. Major non-compliance was found in six of eight areas of the foster care service in the Dublin South Central area, in five of eight in Dublin North City and in two of eight in Cavan/Monaghan with all three areas found to be majorly non-compliant in safe-guarding and child protection and review of foster carers. EPIC CEO Terry Dignan said: “It is deeply concerning that we are seeing repeated failings in key areas by these services. It’s critical that the failings identified by HIQA are prioritised and addressed effectively and in a way that ensures continuous improvement in those areas and that improvements are maintained and applied consistently across the system”. “We welcome the response by Tusla to address the failings highlighted by HIQA and would call for any additional resources required to ensure the success of the action plan being implemented by Tusla would be put in place without delay” For all media enquiries or to arrange an interview please contact: Terry Dignan, CEO of EPIC                     Telephone: 01 8727 661 Mobile: 087...

Deficiencies in our Mental Health Services for Children Persist

EPIC welcomes the latest report by Carol Coulter and her team in the Child Care Law Reporting Project (CCLRP). While Ms. Coulter’s reports shed a positive light on the progress that continues to be made in our care system they also highlight the challenges that continue to exist. One of the issues highlighted in the latest report published today (January 29th) is the fact that we continue to have to send some of our children abroad for treatment. The question must continue to be asked as to why the referral of children abroad for specialised therapeutic interventions has become an accepted feature within our health and social care system and why we, as the 8th best performing economy in the world cannot provide the resources to care for all of our children, regardless of need, here at home. Even more significantly, as long as we continue to send children and young people abroad, we must work to ensure that any such placement is for the shortest possible period of time and that the significant resources invested in providing these specialised interventions abroad are not undone upon returning home due to a lack of appropriate follow on placements and continuing supports available here. Children with severe psychological and psychiatric needs require robust diagnosis and assessment with a properly designed and regularly reviewed short, medium, and longer term support plan in place.  The case of a teenage girl who spent 9 months in a Special Care Unit without receiving psychiatric support is clearly of concern.  Wrap-around psychiatric services with multidisciplinary input are urgently needed for many young people suffering from serious...

Celebrate #CareDay18

Terry Dignan, CEO of EPIC said “On February 16th next, EPIC, with our 5 Nations 1 Voice partners, will celebrate the third ‘Care Day’ since we launched the inaugural Care Day in 2016. Care Day is an opportunity to unite in celebrating the rights of care experienced children and young people, their stories and their achievements. This year we look forward to the biggest Care Day yet by welcoming even more children, young people, their friends, family and carers and care organisations to join in the celebrations. Be part of changing the story for children and young people in care and care leavers by spreading the word for Care Day 2018 and joining us through your participation in the celebration of Care Day 2018! #CareDay 18 - Show your support and get involved! How to get involved… Take a selfie with the downloadable Placard, and on the 16th of February post it on social media using the hashtag #CareDay18 - If you’re not okay with posting a selfie, you can just post a picture of your placard. You can also use our Care Day Twibbon to show your support easily on your Facebook or Twitter page. Care Day Twibbon Young Persons Placard Supporters...
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