Care order for unaccompanied minor who had been granted refugee status

The District Court granted a full care order for a teenage girl who had arrived in Ireland as an unaccompanied minor in late 2021. The court heard evidence that the girl was close to the age of majority and there was little to no point in extending the existing interim care order in the circumstances. The court was further guided by the fact that the girl was happy to have the certainty of a full care order to the age of 18 in place.

The judge met with the girl in person before the matter was heard. The solicitor for the Child and Family Agency (CFA), told the court that the girl had been smuggled here from her home country in Africa. She said the girl had recently been granted refugee status, which had been a big relief for her.

The social worker told the court that she had been allocated to the girl following a referral to the CFA last year. She said the girl told her that she had travelled to Ireland with the assistance of a smuggler. She said the girl was Muslim and there had been “issues of forced marriage and pressure from her family to marry,” which was why she ultimately fled her home country.

She said the teenager was doing “phenomenally well” since her arrival in Ireland. She said she was in a long-term placement with a family that spoke Arabic, which was very beneficial in terms of her cultural identity. She did not know whether or how often the girl attended the mosque, but she was aware that she could go there whenever she wanted.

The social worker said the girl was doing well in school and had made friends with a number of girls who were also from her home country. The social worker said the girl wanted to continue on in education once she left secondary school, which was positive.

The social worker was asked whether the teenager had any contact with her family, and said that she had a “very good level of contact” with them. She said she spoke with her mother and siblings quite regularly. She said the girl was “missing her family” and was eager to explore family reunification. When asked about this further, the social worker said that solicitors had been engaged, but that it had been explained to the teenager that the process could take some time.

The social worker said the girl was in good health generally and had a dental appointment coming up, which she was “petrified” of, but that other than this, there were no medical issues of concern.

CFA solicitor: “And I think [the girl] has recently been granted asylum status?”

Social worker: “Yes, she had her interview with the International Protection Office (IPO), and was granted refugee status on foot of that which is welcome news. She needs that sense of stability to move forward in her life.”

The social worker went on to say that an assessment of needs had recently been completed with the girl’s aftercare worker, and the next step was to put together an aftercare plan. When asked why the full care order was necessary, the social worker said the girl had no parent or guardian in the state, and so the order was wholly necessary for her protection. She said the girl fully understood the application before the court and was happy with it.

Having heard the evidence, the judge noted that he had had the opportunity to meet with the girl in person and obtain her views and wishes. He said it was clear she had arrived here in “very stressful circumstances,” and that she was happy to have the certainty of the care order in place. He said it was important that her desires for family reunification be explored as best as possible. The judge said he was satisfied to make the order and wished the teenager well in her future endeavours. He listed the matter for a further date for aftercare review.