Case Management Guidebook

Comprehensive guidance and support to professionals working in homeless and drug services

Early Life Experience and Childhood

Early Life Experience and Childhood

View Key Interventions

 Key Goals

  1. Identify if there are childhood experi-ences which impact on the service user’s homelessness and general wellbeing and establish steps to address any support needs.
  2. Identify if the service user needs to develop his/her independent living skills after a prolonged period of state care/institutionalisation and establish steps to address any support needs.


International research findings consistently show that children brought up in care have a higher risk of becoming homeless than children brought up in their family of origin. Irish research has repeatedly identified a history of state care as a key route into homelessness for young people. An unsettled care history can impact on a homeless young person’s future housing options in numerous ways. For example, many young people with a care history (particularly one where they experienced multiple care placements) may lack social and family connec-tions. It is important to note that the primary causative factor in such outcomes centres around the reasons why the young person was placed in care in the first instance. These reasons, and not neces-sarily the care placement itself, are what can make people vulnerable to homelessness.

Early childhood experience marred by lack of parental care can lend itself to poor life chances. Traumatic childhood experience and abuse can be a significant factor in preventing a service user from engaging consistently with services, and can mitigate their overall life chances and life expectancy. In the event of an unsettled childhood or care history, this can leave the individual at high risk of becoming homeless in later life. A history of being in State care, and the reasons for entering into that care, can also impact negatively on a young person’s education, life skills, sense of stability, and ability to cope all of which have implications for the identification of appropriate services and supports.

These outcomes notwithstanding, it is important to note that many people have positive experiences of being placed in care.

It is important for case managers to be aware of the impact that being placed in care may have had on a service user in terms of their ability to move out of homelessness. Section 45 of the Childcare Act, 1991 does allow for the development of aftercare services. However, its provisions are merely facilitative and not mandatory. What this means is that once a child reaches 18 years, he or she is no longer under the duty of care of the State. While the legislation does empower the HSE to make continuing provision for young people formerly in its care, it is a purely discretionary power and can only be used in very limited circumstances. Specifically, the HSE may assist a care-leaver in the following ways:

  • Visiting and assisting
  • Arranging for completion of their education
  • Contributing towards their maintenance while completing their education
  • Placing them in a suitable trade or work, calling or business, and paying fees to facilitate such placement
  • Arranging emergency or other accommodation
  • Cooperating with housing authorities in planning accommodation for children leaving care on reaching 18 years

In practice, it is only those care-leavers who remain in full-time education who are eligible for financial supports. If a care-leaver is not in full-time education, they should be advised and supported to contact their community welfare officer.