EPIC Empowering People in Care is a national voluntary organisation that works with and for children and young people who are currently living in care or those who have care experience.
EPIC is the only independent national organisation providing direct 1:1 advocacy support to children and young people who have care experience. EPIC supports children in care and those who have care experience, to have their views and concerns heard, to empower them to speak for themselves, to address issues raised by them, to help them access the services and resources they need and to bring about positive change in their lives.
EPIC believes that children in care and those who have care experience are experts in their own experience.
Background to the Fora:
In 2015, I was employed by EPIC as Participation Co-Ordinator to develop and facilitate a national framework for children in care. This initiative was funded by the Atlantic Philanthropies and developed in partnership with Tusla. My role consisted of working in partnership with local Tusla Social Work Teams to set up groups, known as ‘Fora’ for children and young people who were living in foster care.
The purpose of the Fora is to create a safe, engaging and inclusive space where children and young people aged eight to seventeen can come together to share and explore their positive and challenging experiences of being in care and the services that they are engaged in. The aim is that the views, opinions and experiences of the children and young people participating in the fora will directly and positively influence service delivery, policy and practice reform both locally and nationally.
Participation in Action:
Over the course of the following three years and in partnership with local Social Work teams, fifteen fora were established nationally. These fora were reliant on the voluntary participation of the children and young people as well as the professionals involved. The planning group of each Fora consisted of various Tusla employees from Senior Management, Aftercare, Social Care and Social Work.
As a result of this collaborative partnership these groups created an open, honest and supported space for children and young people to explore their own experiences, the care system itself and simply meet others who were also in care.
“It has been a privilege to sit in a room with a group of young people and to hear what we could do better, simple things, but it makes so much sense when you hear it directly from them”
Young Person, age 14:
“These groups allow me to deal with the care system in a child friendly way and lets us know that we are not alone or different”
For the initial meeting with all Fora groups the children and young people were asked to explore, at their own pace the following three questions in a very broad and general way:
What is positive about being in care?
What is challenging about being in care?
What would you like to change about being in care?