Interim care order extended for unaccompanied minor escaping forced marriage

The District Court extended an interim care order for a young person who had arrived in the country some months earlier seeking to avoid a forced marriage in her country of origin.

The CFA social worker told the court that the father of the young person had died and a paternal uncle had tried to sell her into a marriage. The girl’s mother and other members of the family had been able to secure her travel to the jurisdiction and she had arrived four months earlier unaccompanied.

She had had three placements to date, but a residential unit had now been secured and it was hoped this would be a permanent placement. She said the girl was quiet, reserved and wanted anonymity. She wanted a family placement but given her needs and in discussion with the guardian ad litem (GAL) it was felt she would do better in a residential specialist unit. She had made an application for international protection and this had been successful.

The young person had engaged in education and had been undertaking a bridging course and it was hoped she would start mainstream school in the new academic year. She was motivated to learn but did struggle, because of this a cognitive assessment was to be completed. The judge asked: “How is [this girl’s] English? It is very important especially for girls they learn English to ensure that they can ask for help and not be taken advantage of.” The social worker replied her English was surprisingly good and was getting better all the time.

The girl had been offered counselling but this had been refused. The girl had been referred to a youth mentoring programme. The social worker hoped once the placement had been confirmed and finalised the young person would feel more secure in order to begin some therapeutic healing work to her experiences to date. She confirmed the girl was in good health and was under the age of 18. She believed she had no legal guardian and was alone in the state, therefore the interim care order was necessary and proportionate.

The GAL said she had met with the young person regularly and had almost daily contact by phone or text. The girl had been delighted she had been given international protection and was keen to get a part-time job. The GAL had been concerned about the previous placement but was reassured now a residential placement had been secured. She felt this was the appropriate placement.

The young person had experienced significant trauma. Her father and sister had died last year and that had necessitated her removal from her family and homeland. She said the girl was loathed to engage in counselling which the GAL thought was a cultural issue. She hoped once the cognitive assessment had been completed and the placement was secure she might engage in some therapeutic work. She said she was enrolled for age-appropriate mainstream school in the new academic year.

The judge granted an interim care order for three months and set dates for the full care order hearing.