vulnerable Ukrainian teenager with intellectual disabilities was taken into care after she arrived in Ireland with a man who was not related to her. He was arrested and questioned by gardaí but released without charge and his whereabouts are currently unknown, according to a report by the Child Care Law Reporting Project (CCLRP).
The project, launched in 2013 after the law was changed to allow reporting on cases involving orders under the Child Care Act, regularly highlights important issues in the care system that might otherwise not get public attention.
“While the majority of Ukrainians arriving into Ireland are coming as family groups, there are a small number of separated children arriving on their own,” CCLRP executive director Carol Coulter said.
“With such a large and chaotic movement of people across borders, trafficking and exploitation can arise. The child and family agency is to be commended for its efforts to safeguard this child.”
Girl initially said the man was her uncle, then her cousin. It transpired they were not related at all
The project’s latest report, published today, details how a district court made an emergency care order for the minor who arrived, accompanied by a man, at the reception center at Dublin Airport for Ukrainians fleeing the war.
The court was told she presented as a very vulnerable person with some intellectual difficulties. She had been attending a special school in Ukraine. The girl claimed to be 17 and provided a passport, but a social worker told the court that she appeared to be much younger.
The court heard the child was interviewed by a social worker and initially said that the man was her uncle but then said he was her cousin.
It later transpired they were not related at all.
The girl told authorities she met the man in school and had known him for four years, that he bought her nice things and that her parents didn’t look after her. The court was told the girl asked repeatedly if she could speak with the man and said that she wanted to talk to him about “a lady issue”.
The child and Tusla had attempted to make telephone contact with the girl’s family using numbers in her phone but were unsuccessful.
Her mother and grandmother were thought to be in two different EU countries.
One of the people contacted, the mother’s former partner, told Tusla the man the girl was with was “not a good man” and that she should be taken away from him. The man was arrested and interviewed by gardaí. He was released without charge and disappeared.
The case was one of 68 dealt with in the latest CCLRP report.
Delays and difficulties in accessing suitable placements a factor in the deterioration in a child’s well-being
Nine others also related to the issue of unaccompanied minors arriving in Ireland, often from war-torn countries.
Also highlighted in the report was a shortage of foster and residential placement places for troubled children.
It said a shortage of available options was leaving Tusla with no alternative but to place some children in care in ad hoc settings, supported by care staff.
These included the case of a 14-year-old boy who had to stay in a hotel room. Another teenage boy, said to have complex needs, was living in a holiday home.
In multiple cases, it was agreed that a specialist placement was needed to keep a child safe and address specific needs and behavioral difficulties, but no such placement was available.
The CCLRP said delays and difficulties in accessing suitable placements were often cited as a factor in the deterioration in a child’s well-being and behaviour.
It said that while each case was unique, problems that arise with ad hoc or unsuitable temporary placements included children being isolated from other children, disconnected from school, unable to build a rapport with staff, and not sufficiently settled to engage in therapy.
The report also said such placements were often not compliant with national standards or best practice.
“The use of inappropriate placements, such as hotels and holiday homes, for an extended period of time is deeply worrying,” said CCLRP chief executive Maria Corbett.
“Despite the efforts of the child and family agency, the number and type of placements that are needed do not exist, especially where the child has a disability or behavioral issues. This is leading to poor outcomes for children.”