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 may be in need of international 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 significant 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 separated children will see a Social Worker on the day of referral and an initial assessment will take place. A care plan will be developed and if appropriate, an application for international protection will be made on behalf of the child. All separated children under 12 years will immediately be placed with a foster care family. Those over 12 years may be placed in one of the five short-to-medium term residential intake units that are registered children’s homes. Separated children are accommodated in these units to facilitate a social work risk and needs assessment (including health, education, and interests) which allows for better matching with onward placements with foster families.
The social work assessment process allows the child to have:
- Possibility of family reunification in Ireland or another country;
- 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 Care Worker assessment and care;
- Educational assessment;
- Obtain a PPSN number;
- Commence international protection 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.
Like any prudent parent, assessment of children’s needs and well-being is an ongoing process. However, after the initial assessment period, children are placed in the most appropriate placement option depending on their identified needs. The most prevalent form of placement is with a foster family or a supported lodgings family. 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 team also operates a family reunification assessment service whereby immigration authorities, in accordance with the International Protection Act 2015, refer children presenting with families or adults in cases where parentage or guardianship is unclear. The social work team conduct an assessment and based on the outcome 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 team also has a dedicated aftercare service to meet the unique needs of separated children as they leave care and support them with their transition into adulthood and independence in Ireland.
Since 2016, the Separated Children Seeking International Protection service has been working with the EU relocation programme for refugee children arriving at hotspots in Europe such as Greece, Italy, Malta and Calais.
Tusla’s Separated Children Seeking International Protection service is widely recognised as an excellent example of best practice for children in migration, providing child-centred interventions for a highly vulnerable group of young people.