Are We Meeting the Mental Health Needs of Irish Children in Care?
Fiona McNicholas and Gargi Bandyopadhyay
Affiliation: Clinic, 59 Orwell Rd, Rathgar, Dublin 6.
Keywords: children in foster care, mental health needs, training of social workers
Goals: In 2012 a harrowing report into the deaths of children in State care in Ireland was published. This confirmed
the already well-established view of these children as physically and emotionally vulnerable. This study aimed to
look at the training levels and need of social workers working within the child protection and social services system.
Methods: This paper reports on a study examining the level of training in mental health in a cohort of 92 social workers in
a Dublin area, most of whom were employed in child protection and social services posts. All participants had completed
third level or university/college education in areas closely related to the care sector. A subgroup attended and evaluated a
training workshop on mental health issues.
Results: Nearly half (49.1%) of those responding to the survey reported no prior mental health training. The most requested
topics for training included specific MH disorders and issues related to various kinds of child abuse and neglect.
They also wanted training in multidisciplinary team working, play therapy and managing separation and access.
Conclusions: We make recommendations to address the perceived deficits. The recognition of higher rates of mental
health problems in these children emphasise the importance of adequate training in mental health for personnel working
with children in care, and easy access to mental health services.
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