An aftercare planning review was held in the District Court in respect of a non-national who was an unaccompanied minor. The guardian ad litem felt that the aftercare plan should have been drawn up when the child was 16 (in line with HSE policy), he would turn 18 next year. The child was a teenager of complex needs with low cognitive functioning and the aftercare plan was not adequate, according to the GAL.
The judge was not satisfied that the matter could be signed off and directed that it come back in for review within six months.
The social worker said the teenager was in a residential centre and attended a horticultural course, of which there were three years left. He had a GNIB card and “leave to remain” until April of next year. His mother, whom the social work department found very hard to contact, was living in the UK and she had said would help him fill out his citizenship application at the end of the year. However the GAL said it was 50/50 as to whether she would actually do this.
There were two criminal charges pending for the teenager; he had no family supports after the age of 18; a significant level of offending and a low cognitive ability; the GAL said these were the risks.
He recommended the social worker get expert advice from an immigration solicitor. This was due to the fact the Department of Justice informed the HSE that they could not process his application for reception and integration, as his mother and father were known to be alive. The GAL felt that a reasonable parent would get legal advice on the matter for their child.
The HSE solicitor said the Department of Justice had emailed them to say there was nothing they could do. The judge responded: “There may be a difference between the position the Department of Justice has and the avenues of remedy open to [the child].”
There was no parallel plan if the mother failed to come over from the UK to fill in the application, said the GAL solicitor. The child had come from southern Africa.
“If he has leave to remain after he turns 18, will he have access to welfare allowance, rent allowance and so forth?” asked the judge. The social worker did not know.
The aftercare worker told the court that when the child turned 18 he would be referred to a housing service, it was fully staffed, with a two year maximum tenancy. Referral for this service should be done at around 17 and a half years.
A detailed aftercare plan would be ready when he was closer to 18 years of age, said the aftercare worker, that was when accommodation needs and educational training would be kicking in. Over the next six months he would be brought to the housing service to view it. The aftercare services have constant links with the Department of Social Protection and with Justice, he added.
The GAL solicitor asked him if he had worked with a child before who was “in the same picture as [this child], an unaccompanied minor,” and the Department of Justice had also said they could not process an application if Mum or Dad were known to be alive. The aftercare worker said he had not worked with such a child before.
The judge asked the aftercare worker if he knew whether the child would have access to welfare supports after the age of 18 if he had leave to remain, he replied that he did not know but he would find out.
The GAL told the court that the child was doing very well, but was borderline in terms of disability due to low cognitive functioning.
There seemed to be a conflict of information between the GAL and the social worker in respect of whether the child could return to live with his previous foster mother, should a place become free in her house. The GAL said he had spoken with her the previous day and she had said that she was open to having him back there, once the child she was currently fostering had moved on. The GAL felt a placement there would be a much better option than the housing service, where he would be open to peer influence. In the past he had stolen a car and carried out a serious robbery with a syringe.
The child wished to find out more about his Dad, but his Mother was very reluctant to give any information in relation to him.
There was a risk he might not be naturalised due to his offending history, therefore he could be returned to his country, where he no idea about his maternal or paternal family, and he had no idea where he would be returned to.
The GAL said he wished the matter to come back to court, he did not think it was an aftercare plan, “it was a file review”.
He said that according to HIQA children should not be automatically discharged from their foster home or residential placement when they turn 18, these were their homes. The child was a high risk child; he was non-national, of mixed race, he had a low IQ which was close to a learning disability, essentially he had a lower end learning disability.
The judge was not satisfied that the matter could be signed off so he put it back in for further review in six months’ time. In the interim the child was “to be provided legal advice regarding residency and naturalisation status, as well as how to ensure the possibility of remaining with adequate supports beyond the age of 18.”
A comprehensive aftercare plan was to be lodged, one week before the next review date.
Clarification regarding his placement in the aftercare plan was also needed, as there was a direct conflict of information between the GAL and social worker in this regard.