Care leavers ten years on — first phase of landmark study commences

Posted on: 15 February 2024

Ground-breaking research study to transform our understanding of how adults fare after leaving the state care system  

Minister Roderic O’Gorman met with the research team leading a major new study exploring the experiences of young adults who have left the Irish care system. 

The study, Care Leavers – Ten Years On, will be the first in Ireland to address the experiences of ‘graduates’ of the care system in adult life, in terms of education, family, work, accommodation, health and well-being.  

The study is being led by a research team from Trinity College Dublin in partnership with University of Sussex. Phase one of the study is now underway and will involve work to secure ethical approval, a review of relevant international research findings, and extensive consultation with care leavers and those providing after care and support services to ensure the best possible study. 

Funded by the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, the study is part of Care Experiences: Journeys through the Irish Care System, a new national research and data project examining the lives of children in care and adults who were in care as children.  

This two-year study, which will be completed by end of September 2025, will investigate how young people who leave the care system fare as adults; what makes a difference in supporting care leavers, and what is important from their point of view 

Welcoming the commencement of the studyMinster for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth Roderic O’Gorman said“I want to congratulate the team on their progress to date in preparing for this innovative study, and I would also urge care leavers to take part in the upcoming consultations on how best to design the study. This will help to ensure that it reflects the experiences of as many care leavers as possible.”  

 The research team for Care Leavers – Ten Years On is led by Professor Stephanie Holt and Professor Emeritus Robbie Gilligan from the School of Social Work and Social Policy, Trinity, in association with Professor Janet Boddy, School of Education and Social Work, University of Sussex.  

Assistant Professors Eavan Brady and Joe Whelan (School of Social Work and Social Policy, Trinity) and Dr Sarah Parker (School of Medicine, Trinity) complete the team. 

Commenting on the new study, Professor Holt said “We are delighted to have such a strong inter-disciplinary and inter-institutional research team working on this innovative study. Our findings will provide the first clear evidence from Ireland on how people who left foster or residential care in the past ten years or so are doing in their late twenties."  

Professor Robbie Gilligan, Trinity, added: “This evidence will be invaluable for Tusla – Child and Family Agency as it plans services for children in care, and also as they develop their after-care programmes alongside other relevant public bodies. Importantly, the study will also contribute to international knowledge in this key area. 

Care leavers / care experienced adults who wish to take part in the upcoming consultation process for the design of the study should to find out more. Alternatively,  they are also very welcome to email their suggestions for any questions or topics to be covered in study interviews. 

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