Why do so many children brought up in care end up in jail?

Nicola Carr & Paula Mayock - The Irish Times

This opinion piece from the Irish Times explores the high rates of children and young people with care experience within the criminal justice system in Ireland, the factors that contribute to this overrepresentation, the policies (or lack thereof) addressing this issue, and the need for more information and data collection on outcomes for children and young people in care. The authors explain that one reason careleavers are overrepresented in the criminal justice system relates to residential care homes, where it is common practice to call the police to deal with behavioral issues of young people, rather than resolve those issues within the family home. The authors point to the lack of supports for those transitioning out of care as another reason.

Again, international research shows that in a wider context of extended youth transitions to adulthood – evident in the older age at which young people typically move from the family home to independent living – young people leaving care face far more rapid transitions, sometimes in the absence of critical supports. This may make them more vulnerable to a range of negative outcomes, including involvement in the criminal justice system.

The authors note the lack of national policy governing this area and call for better data collection on the extent to which young people in care come into contact with the criminal justice system in order to "establish an accurate picture about the extent of the problem."