Tusla – Child and Family Agency, is launching a new pilot initiative to provide children coming into care with care backpacks to help them settle in to their new homes. In 2020, over 600 children came into care for the first time. When a child comes into care, they may not have many of their own belongings with them. Social workers will often source items for children, who for different reasons may have few belongings from their family homes. Tusla is committed to ensuring the participation of children and young people, and so to help children who find themselves in this difficult situation, Tusla worked with children with experience of care to find out what items they felt would have made a difference to them.
The children in care Fora, consisting of children and young people with experience of care, listed the items they felt could have made a difference to them when they entered into care for the first time. Eager to make a difference in the lives of other children following in their footsteps, the Fora members worked with their local Tusla teams to bring their ideas to fruition. In particular, they wanted to include messages of hope in backpacks.
“When you come into care, you can feel stripped of everything you usually have, but getting one of these backpacks is like getting a small piece back of something you lost. When you give the backpack it is like giving them this ‘normal’ bag with the essentials that will help them feel like any other kid. From the children who have been through it before, here’s something that we hope will help,” says Sean, who is one of the young members of a Tusla’s Children in Care Fora that participated in this initiative.
Each backpack contains a number of items such as pyjamas, underwear, toiletries, a cuddly blanket and toy for young children, and a diary. Importantly, they also come with a message of care and hope. The provision of these backpacks will initially be piloted in two Tusla areas – Dublin South West/Kildare/West Wicklow and Dublin South East/East Wicklow.
Teresa Doyle, Social Work Team Leader in Dublin Mid Leinster, commented: “No one can truly understand what it feels like to walk in the shoes of a child being received into care. Sometimes it is planned but more often it is not; either way, it can be traumatic, even for the most hopeful child. These bags are not the branding or labelling of a ‘child who is in care’, rather a message to that child that we care. They will offer any child, of any age, a little colour on the greyest of their days and a message of hope by the children with lived experiences, who have in fact walked in their shoes.”