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Home > Collective participation for children in care: a formative evaluation of the Tusla / EPIC Foster Care Action Groups.

Jackson, Rebecca and Brady, Bernadine and Forkan, Cormac and Tierney, Edel and Kennan, Danielle (2018) Collective participation for children in care: a formative evaluation of the Tusla / EPIC Foster Care Action Groups. Galway: UNESCO Child and Family Research Centre, National University of Ireland Galway.

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Children’s participation has been defined as ‘the process by which children and young people have active involvement and real influence in decision-making on matters affecting their lives, both directly and indirectly’ (DCYA, 2015: 20). Children’s participation can relate to decision-making about their own lives and circumstances (individual participation) or to the issues affecting a group of children and young people (collective participation).

This study focuses on collective participation, which is defined by Seim and Slettebø (2011: 498) as ‘the goal of improving services for everyone in the same situation’. While children’s participation is important in all areas of their lives, the need for effective structures and processes to support the participation of children in care has been well documented in Ireland and internationally. A number of reports spanning decades, from the Kennedy Report in 1969 to the more recent Ryan Report (2009), highlighted the serious failings of the state to protect children as a consequence of not listening to them. Research has shown that many children and young people in care feel that they do not have a say in decisions that affect them, and that they have insufficient information and support to understand and cope with what can be a very stressful experience. Furthermore, research has shown that the experience of the care process itself, along with factors arising from prior life experiences, may lead to poor outcomes in adulthood, such as poor mental health, lower educational attainment, and welfare dependency. For these reasons, to develop an effective child protection system and to improve the lives of children and young people in care, it is considered necessary to listen to and respond to the views of children in care.

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