Under the Child Care Act, 1991 and the Child and Family Agency Act 2013, Tusla has a duty to promote the welfare of children who are not receiving adequate care or protection, including children who present as homeless, and are not in the care of their parents.
Tusla provides assessment and care to children in this situation, understanding that there is always an underlying reason for a child to present as homeless. In the case of a young LGBTI+ person this may be occurring at a time when the family is coming to an understanding of their changed identity, and the challenges that may create for members of the family.
In the first instance, and in consultation with the child, Tusla social workers will see if it is possible for the child to be re-integrated into the care of their family or extended family. This will only occur where it is in the child's best interest and where there is a plan to address the issues that led to the child leaving, or being told to leave, the family home. If this is not a suitable or safe option the child will be received into care and placed with a foster family or residential centre. In a small number of cases they may provide accommodation and support to a 17 year old.
An assessment is carried out as to the reasons for a child coming into care, their current and future needs and how these are to be met are set out in their Care Plan. While there is no specific plan for LGBTI+ children received into care, the reasons for their presentation as homeless forms an integral part of their assessment and care plan, through which appropriate services and supports will be identified.
Their social worker, foster carer or residential staff will need to ensure they have the information and understanding necessary to help the young person. When they leave care at 18 years of age, their after care plan should address ongoing supports for them as an LGBTI+ young people as well as income and health supports, accommodation and help with their educational ambitions. While the provision of housing is a function of the housing or local authorities, Tusla co-operates with the housing authorities as part of aftercare planning.
The Programme for Government includes a commitment to develop a National LGBT Youth Strategy. This is a key commitment for my Department. It also contributes to the Government’s broader commitment to continuing to strive for full inclusion of LGBTI+ people in Ireland.
The Strategy will be the first of its kind in the world and will identify the additional measures that are required to ensure that young people identifying as LGBTI+ can achieve the same outcomes as all children and young people. The actions which the Strategy will recommend are still under consideration, with expected publication in Summer 2018.
Research into the scale of the problem of homeless LGBTI young people, has been raised during the development of the strategy process. I am aware that Focus Ireland are now undertaking research in this area and I will ask that my officials to meet with Focus Ireland and Tusla to discuss the project.