Girl received no psychiatric assessment despite mother’s request

Another case from Child Care Law Reporting Project highlights ‘refugee’ with no parents

Early this year, Tusla, the child and family agency, said the teenager girl was ready “to be discharged directly home”. Photograph: Alan Betson

Early this year, Tusla, the child and family agency, said the teenager girl was ready “to be discharged directly home”. Photograph: Alan Betson


A teenage girl spent nine months in a secure detention unit and received no psychiatric assessment despite repeated requests by her mother. Her detention began in mid-2016 and she was actively self-harming in secure care.

The case is included in the Child Care Law Reporting Project, which shows the ongoing extent to which mental ill-health, cognitive disability and addiction lead to parents facing child-protection proceedings.

By the end of 2016, the court heard that a “large range” of assessments had taken place and she had an individual therapeutic plan. She was still identified as “high-risk”. A psychiatric assessment had not taken place and no referral had been made to the psychiatrist that visited weekly.

Early this year, Tusla, the child and family agency (CFA), said she was ready “to be discharged directly home” though the court heard there was no money for items needed at home and her allocated social worker was leaving her role. There was no psychiatric assessment.

Noting the parenting capacity report had not been completed, the judge asked how realistic it was to discharge in a week.

Two weeks later the CFA reported “one serious incident of self harm” and some setbacks, but overall things were going well at home. The court also heard however the girl had had a turbulent time and there was concern about the lack of psychological services for the girl.

In the next two weeks she seriously self-harmed and was admitted to hospital. After being discharged with medication she threatened to throw herself out a window. Gardaí brought her back to hospital.

An order was made to readmit her into secure care and that she see a psychiatrist immediately. This didn’t happen for six days. The judge said: “That’s simply not good enough”. In subsequent weeks there was a further incident of self-harm and the CFA said she might need an out-of-State placement.

Her guardian ad litem (GAL) said while secure care was keeping her safe it was of no therapeutic benefit.


A minor who arrived alone in Ireland, in mid-2016, had a note saying, “I intend to apply for refugee”.

The District Court made an interim care order when informed by the child and family agency (CFA) social worker the girl had no parent or guardian in the State. Her father was dead and there was no contact with her mother. There had been no family tracing as it could put the girl at risk, her social worker said.

The girl was in a residential unit for six months and a fostering social worker had identified a family who would be “a perfect match for her”. Transition to the family would be “slow and at her own pace”.

The CFA told the court there was no record of the girl in another European country and an asylum application had been made on her behalf. She was awaiting her interview for this.

The judge asked what impact the asylum application could have on the CFA application for a care order, and whether the proceedings should wait until application had been processed.

“The social worker replied that if we had to wait for her [Department of] Justice application to be determined we would be ‘sitting on our hands waiting’.”

“He continued: ‘If she fails in her application we will be resisting an application to remove her from the State before she turns 18. Care planning is a priority’.”

The judge granted an extension to the interim care order, and also asked if a formal age assessment was necessary. The social worker said he was “vehemently against it because the child had suffered enough”. The guardian ad litem (GAL) agreed.

“The GAL was very complimentary of how the CFA had cared for the unaccompanied minor, including the level of work they had done in relation to her independence and English.”

A full care order until she was 18 was made.