Unaccompanied minors from outside the EU may not be getting the best care because of a lack of national oversight, a report warns.
The report, published today by the Economic and Social Research Institute, found regional disparities in the provision of aftercare.
In particular, the type of aftercare provided depended on local resources and practices.
The report, Policies and Practices on Unaccompanied Minors in Ireland, also found that key data and information gaps persist, particularly in the number of unaccompanied minors in the care in the State.
Up to 2010, hostel-based care was provided for unaccompanied minors, a system widely criticised for exposing already vulnerable children to harm.
The Child and Family Agency, Tusla, now treats unaccompanied minors equally to other children in care — they are provided with foster care, supported lodgings, or residential placements.
Due to the high level of need among the group, most are allocated a social worker.
The report says the number of unaccompanied minors going missing from State care has fallen in recent years. Last year, four children went missing and two were found.
In 2007, when the care system was acknowledged as at crisis point, 41 children went missing from the care of the Dublin social work team and 12 were found.
Report author Emma Quinn said a priority must be the rolling out of the expertise from Dublin and making sure that children who present outside of the capital were getting access to the best care.
The report highlights practical struggles for many unaccompanied minors.
In particular, there were problems getting a personal public service number or travelling outside of the State on a school trip.
The report also found that the world of older children changed dramatically once they reached 18 year of age.
Because of the change in their legal status, they may end up in the direct provision system if they have applied for asylum
Ms Quinn said older children could be put in centres far from their foster carers.
Both Barnardos and the Children’s Rights Alliance have called for a transitional period that takes account of the children’s vulnerability.
Ms Quinn said the study found significant improvements in the case provided to unaccompanied minors since the publication of the European Migration Network Ireland study in 2009.
“Good practices, including child specific procedures are in evidence within the asylum system,” she said. “Also welcome is the practice of not forcibly returning unaccompanied minors.”
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