Interim care order extended for unaccompanied child seeking aftercare – 2021vol1#15

The Child and Family Agency (CFA) was granted an extension of an interim care order for an unaccompanied child who would be 18 within months. The guardian ad litem (GAL) was seeking an early hearing date for a section 47 application to ensure an aftercare package was available to the child (A).

A was born in Ireland, raised in another jurisdiction and arrived alone back in Ireland after spring 2020. As she was under the age of 18 years and unaccompanied, she was placed in the care of the CFA. The court heard A wished to remain in Ireland and hoped to study nursing.

The social worker was unable to give evidence as she was self-isolating due to Covid but her signed report was handed into the court. The solicitor for the CFA said A had completed all her state exams in the jurisdiction where she was raised, and the social worker was helping her to have those exams recognised and validated by the Irish authorities. The solicitor said that it was the policy of the CFA only to offer aftercare packages to those children who had been in the care of the CFA for more than a year on their eighteenth birthday and as this child had not and would not have been in the care of the CFA for one year before her eighteenth birthday it was unable to offer an aftercare package.

As the child was unaccompanied it was the GAL’s solicitor who represented her and stated that he was seeking the earliest possible date for the hearing of a section 47 application to ensure aftercare for her. Both parties agreed on the factual matters and the hearing of the section 47 application would be made on submissions but both parties would like to make brief addresses to the court. The GAL’s solicitor stated that if an aftercare package was not available A would be effectively homeless and not entitled to the financial support of others leaving the care of the CFA.

The CFA solicitor said that the CFA was bound by its own policies and social workers have to follow those policies. He said that there was a meeting yesterday to assist the child, but she did not qualify for an aftercare package. The judge asked the solicitor: “What would a prudent parent do? This is not a child who has no plans or has not attained achievement. It is simply not the case that on their eighteenth birthday parents say you’re out, good luck.”

The judge was satisfied the grounds existed for the extension of the ICO and adjourned the section 47 application until the end of the month, asked parties to make their submissions and allocated a time for the hearing.