Care order granted for unaccompanied minor, parents’ whereabouts unknown

The District Court granted a full care order for a teenage girl who had arrived in Ireland as an unaccompanied minor from an African country in late 2021. She said the girl was still awaiting her interview with the International Protection Office (IPO).

The court heard evidence that the girl was close to the age of majority and there was little point in extending the existing interim care order. The court was further guided by the fact that the girl was happy to have the certainty of a full care order in place to age 18.

The social worker gave evidence that the girl had been on “quite a journey” to get to Ireland.

CFA solicitor: “Did [the girl] say why she left [her home country]?

Social worker: “She told us that her parents left her in the care of her uncle when she was seven. She told us it was a financial decision and that they couldn’t afford to care for her, she said her two older siblings were already living with her uncle.”

The social worker said the girl had originally been placed in a residential care unit when she arrived in Ireland, but was subsequently moved to a long-term placement. She said the girl initially “struggled with Irish family life,” as it had been very different from the life she left behind. She said the teenager had now “settled in well” in her placement.

The social worker said the whereabouts of the girl’s parents were unknown, but that they had started the process of family tracing with the Irish Red Cross. She said the girl wanted to find out where her parents were, but understood the process could take some time and might not be successful.

The social worker said that information had recently been received that the girl’s uncle had passed away, and that she was “devastated” by the news. The court was also told that the girl’s two siblings had been killed some years previously in their home country.

CFA solicitor: “And is she being supported in this regard?”

Social worker: “Yes, she has the support of her aftercare worker, and she is attending counselling.”

When asked whether the teenager had any specific medical needs, the social worker said she was a “very vulnerable girl,” who had “many challenges to overcome.”

She said, “she was effectively abandoned as a seven-year-old, so she will need as much support as possible over the coming years.”

CFA solicitor: “And what is the position with regard to her asylum application?”

Social worker: “She is still awaiting her interview with the IPO. There are delays in the process, which is very frustrating. I have written to the IPO on multiple occasions asking for an update, but I haven’t received an adequate response. We do expect her to be granted asylum status, but it’s not ideal that she is still waiting.”

The social worker confirmed that the girl’s cultural needs were being met in her placement and that she had a good circle of friends from her home country. She said they often went into town for dinner. The witness said the girl was also aware that she could attend the mosque at any point should she wish to do so.

The social worker said a care plan had been completed earlier in the year and a further review was due to take place. As the girl was due to reach the age of majority shortly, the witness said an assessment of needs had also taken place.

It was noted that the girl was fully aware of the application before the court and understood its purpose. The social worker said: “It makes [the girl] feel happy that she knows she will be taken care of until she is 18.”

Having heard the evidence the judge said he was satisfied that the threshold had been reached and that was necessary and proportionate to make the full care order to age 18, noting that the teenager was close to the age of majority.