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Separated Children Seeking Asylum

Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, provides specialist services for separated children seeking asylum (SCSA). Children are referred to the service by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner (ORAC) and by the Garda National Immigration Bureau (GNIB). The majority of children referred to the service are received into care and initially accommodated in one of the intake units as either a “pre-reunification with their family placement”, or as a “pre-foster care placement”. All unaccompanied children under 12 years of age are placed with a foster family on arrival. Children are received into the care of the Agency, either on a voluntary basis or through a court order under the Child Care Act 1991. Some of these children are received into care pending the outcome of a family reunification risk assessment or while family tracing is being facilitated.

All children are seen by a social worker on the day of referral and an initial assessment takes place. The social work assessment is multidisciplinary in nature and involves a medical examination, an educational assessment and a child protection risk assessment. A statutory care plan is developed and, if appropriate, an application for asylum is made on behalf of the child. After assessment, children are placed in the most appropriate placement option depending on their assessed needs. The most common form of placement is with a foster family.

An equity of care principle applies to separated children, which affords them the same standard of care provision as any other child in care. Tusla is committed to maintaining equity and equality of services to separated children vis a vis all children at risk or in state care, and to ensuring that there is no differentiation of care provision, care practices, care priorities, standards or protocols until the young person reaches 18 years.

Each separated child is allocated a child protection social worker, who is responsible for the development and implementation of an individualised statutory care plan for the child. They also supervise the standard of the child's placement and provide services and support to meet the child's needs. If the social work assessment indicates that applying for asylum in Ireland is in the child's best interest, the social worker assists with the application for refugee status in accordance with the Refugee Act, 1996.

For more information see Tusla's SCSA service.


Key Facts and Figures

The number of separated children seeking asylum in Ireland has declined substantially in recent years. In 2017 Tusla's SCSA service received 175 referrals, the highest number since 2009 (203 referrals), but considerably fewer than in 2001 (1,085 referrals). 55% (111) of those referred to the service in 2017 were placed in care.