An Interim Care Order was extended for a separated child who had been found alone at Dublin airport. A guardian ad litem (GAL) had been appointed to the child whose father was deceased and whose mother lived outside of the jurisdiction. There had been no service to the mother on the basis that the mother had not yet been traced.
The CFA were seeking to locate the child’s mother through the Irish Red Cross. Feedback had been received back to the CFA that the information on the form was insufficient to locate the mother because the village referred to was huge and landmarks or any areas of interest were needed so they could scale down the search area.
The child was currently in the care of the CFA under the team for separated children. He was in a foster placement and attending a school for children seeking asylum. He had adequate clothing and was involved in sports, his level of English was not great, the social worker told the court. The strategy was to continue with the child protection assessment and seek further information about his family.
The GAL told the court that he had been appointed within the last month and had met the child and his social worker with an interpreter. He was “talkative as best he can, and can get some of his views expressed, particularly when it comes to smart telephones and new shoes. He has adapted to Irish adolescence very quickly, enjoys attending school and is quite street wise.”
The child was capable of getting to school on his own, said the GAL, and mixed with his friends in town. There were no undue concerns about late nights or what he might be up to, he had a mobile phone and communicated with his foster family. His foster carer had said he could communicate quite well in English when he wanted to and did English classes outside of school.
He became visibly upset when he talked about not knowing where his mother was, said the GAL.
“His age hasn’t been determined,” said the judge.
His prescribed age was 15, the GAL told the court, and he came across as somebody who was certainly not 18. His manner, his look and his presentation was that of someone under 18.
The judge remarked that it would be necessary sooner rather than later to determine his age. “Aftercare will be determined by age, before the next date if you would apply your minds as to what is necessary in relation to age determination, at the very latest it would have to occur before a Care Order hearing but it should occur before then,” he said.
The GAL agreed with fixing a hearing date. “It does seem to be that the maternal family got him out of [the other jurisdiction], he has two brothers. One of the features of this case and others like it is that there is very little information and huge gaps.”
The judge noted that the information the court had was largely based on self-reported information from the child. The father was deceased, the mother untraced and un-contactable at present. He was satisfied to proceed on an ex-parte basis under section 17.3 of the Child Care Act.
The views and wishes of the child had been expressed on his behalf by both the social worker and GAL, and there were reports from both. The judge was satisfied to extend the Interim Care Order as there was no appropriate guardian in the state to care for him. “The order is a proportionate order to make”.
“Medical directions are also an issue. If he is over 16 medical consent would be a matter for himself, as opposed to court directions. It is appropriate to fix Care Order hearing dates, obviously if there is contact with the mother that may well change or indeed if there is other information.
“We haven’t yet come up with a template in terms of age. Bone testing is two years either way, without a proper developmental history the person gets less accurate, a medical opinion is what I’ve done in the past, along with experienced social workers from the separated team. I am noting that we will address the issue of how to go about the age assessment,” the judge concluded.