Separated Children Seeking International Protection
Separated children seeking international protection are defined as “children under eighteen years of age who are outside their country of origin, who have applied for protection and are separated from their parents or their legal/customary care giver”.
Many of these children may have high levels of vulnerability and have experienced gross trauma. Many face problems and challenges on issues including separation and bereavement from family and friends, social isolation, language barriers, emotional and mental health problems, discrimination and racism. In addition they have to live with the anxiety of possible removal from the country or uncertainty as to their future.
All children will see a Social Worker on the day of referral and an initial assessment will take place. A statutory care plan will be developed and if appropriate, an application for asylum will be made on behalf of the child. All newly arriving separated children under 12 years will be placed on arrival in a foster care placement. Those over 12 years will be placed in one of the three residential intake units in Dublin that are registered children’s homes: on arrival children are accommodated in these units over a number of weeks while a social work risk and needs assessment is carried out. The assessment is multidisciplinary in nature and in addition to the child protection social work component it also involves a medical examination and an educational assessment.
This assessment process allows the child to have:-
- Possibility of family reunification;
- Possibility of return to country of origin;
- Medical screening and follow up medical care if necessary;
- Trafficking assessment and abuse disclosure;
- Psychology assessment and intervention if indicated;
- Social Work assessment
- Social Care Worker assessment and care;
- Educational assessment;
- Obtain a PPSN number;
- Commence asylum application ;
- DNA testing for reunifications that present in Dublin where doubt exists re: authenticity. Results will help inform the child’s placement; with family or in care.
After assessment children are placed in the most appropriate placement option depending on their assessed needs. The most prevalent form of placement is with a foster family but supported lodgings are also used. Foster placements and supported lodgings have been identified throughout the country and there is strong linkage between the dedicated social work team in Dublin and the local social work teams in order to ensure a seamless transition from intake units to local placements.
The social work service also operates a reunification service whereby immigration authorities refer families or adults presenting with children in cases where parentage or guardianship is not apparent. The social work team conduct an assessment which may include DNA testing and based on this assessment children are either returned to the adults/families presenting or are taken into care where there are concerns around parentage/guardianship and/or their safety and welfare.
The Separated Children Seeking International Protection Service is widely recognised as an excellent service, providing best practice interventions for a highly vulnerable group of young people.