"Care Just Changes Your Life": Factors Impacting upon the Mental Health of Children and Young People with Experiences of Care in Northern Ireland
This paper represents one element of a research project carried out into the mental health needs of children and young people with experiences of care in Northern Ireland. Focusing exclusively on qualitative data collected from 51 young people in care and aftercare, it discusses in the first instance how the challenges and difficulties faced by young people can manifest themselves in feelings and behaviours that may exemplify poor mental well-being. In doing so it provides an understanding of mental health in the context of these young people's lives. Through offering a more detailed account of some of the specific issues that put these young people at increased risk, it highlights areas for further work and consideration as a means of protecting them against these risks. These include: dealing with experiences prior to care; easing and "normalising" the experience of living in care; and enhancing "safety nets" after care. A key objective of the research is to inform policy and practice through the accounts of children and young people. It is argued that more work needs to be done to find creative ways of enhancing the day-to-day experiences of young people while in care and when leaving care.
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