Barnardos new ‘Boarded Out’ Support Service

by Rose Barrett
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Barnardos new service, the Boarded Out Practical Support Service for Adults, is open to Dublin people who were boarded out as children up until the introduction of the 1991 Child Care Act. 

This applies to children across the country who were boarded, fostered, nursed or farmed out pre the 1991 Act (all terms used to describe children who were raised with families other than their own in Ireland).   

While the exact number of people boarded out is unknown, information from the Adoption Authority of Ireland (AAI)* and the Final Report of the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes 2021* would indicate that between 20,000 to 30, 000 children were boarded out between the years 1920 – 1970 alone. 

In some cases, babies and infants were placed with families who were responsible for their care by the State. Older children were boarded out in both urban and rural areas. Some had to carry out unpaid farm and domestic work inappropriate for their age, and regularly kept out of school to do so. 

The practice of boarding out continued until the introduction of the 1991 Child Care Act, and Barnardos is now asking adults living in Dublin who may have had this experience to apply to the Boarded Out Practical Support Services.   

Natalie Johnson, Project Coordinator for the service, said: “For some people, the trauma of early separation from their mothers, and the subsequent experience of abuse, missed educational opportunities, forced labour, stigma and issues around identity associated with being boarded out can have lifelong consequences. Our service can offer support including: support to access health, community and social services, help to cope with isolation and loneliness, assistance in filling out forms and grant applications, advocacy, , information and signposting  along with a referral to Barnardos therapeutic supports.   

* Noel (82) was born in once such mother and baby institution. He never knew his birth family and was sent to live on a farm in rural Ireland and was regularly kept home from school to work on the farm. He struggled at school and was slapped by the teacher; at 13, he left school and continued to work unpaid on the farm until he was 16 and moved to England.  

Over 60 years later, Noel contacted Barnardos Boarded Out Practical Support Service to help source his birth information. Community Worker Carol helped support him through the process. Noel also felt isolated living alone, he struggled to cook his meals and carry out household chores. Carol contacted the local primary care team advocated for a home care package for Noel and arranged for Meals on Wheels to be delivered daily. 

Carol’s visits helped Noel feel less alone, she also put him in touch with local groups so he now has a social outlet where he’s connected to his community.

Funded by Tusla Dormant Accounts, anyone living in Dublin who was boarded out and needs practical support, please reach out to Barnardos. This service is free and confidential and can be contacted in the following ways: email [email protected], phone 01 813 4100 or contact Barnardos in Dublin at Christchurch Square, D08 DT63 and 23/24 Buckingham Street Lower, D1.   

*Real name has not been used to protect this person’s identity.

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