I propose to take Questions Nos. 634, 635 and 636 together.
Unaccompanied minors, including children arriving from the Ukraine, are supported and accommodated by Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, in accordance with the provisions of the Child Care Act 1991.
Tusla has a dedicated social work team for Separated Children Seeking International Protection (SCSIP). Over the past 20 years the SCSIP Team has developed expertise through Ireland’s participation in International Refugee Protection Programmes and by caring for separated children seeking international protection who arrive unannounced at Irish ports, including airports.
Tusla has a significant role, as part of the State’s overall response, to support individuals, particularly women and children, displaced from Ukraine, as a result of the war and coming into Ireland. Tusla is committed to balancing the needs of families in a humanitarian crisis, with its child protection responsibilities, and requirement to support families and promote the welfare of children.
Unaccompanied children, who arrive at ports of entry to Ireland, are referred to Tusla for a child protection needs assessment. In the first instance, Tusla makes every attempt to contact relatives of the child and to reunite the child with family members or friends. If children cannot be reunified with family or friends, they are either received into the State care, or, if older and in line with their needs, are fully supported by Tusla in having an appropriate placement, education and other assistance.
Young people in care, and those being supported by Tusla, are placed by Tusla either in small specialist residential care centres, or with specifically recruited foster families under a Fáilte Foster care programme. Social Workers and social care workers are allocated to support and monitor the progress of the child / young person. The care plan may involve specialist English language tuition, intensive educational supports and therapeutic work in respect of trauma.
Children who arrive in Ireland outside of a dedicated refugee programme are supported in their application for refugee status.
Assisting children with reunification with their families has evolved as a key piece of the support social workers provide to those who are eligible to apply. Where relevant the process of reunification is started as soon as the children come to the attention of Tusla.
All Ukrainian citizens and third country nationals living in the Ukraine who seek international protection in Ireland will receive temporary protection status. This includes unaccompanied and separated children.
From January 2022 to date, 340 unaccompanied minors were referred to Tusla of which 161 where from Ukraine. Currently, 164 unaccompanied minors, of which 66 are Ukrainian, are in State care / accommodation.
The Deputy is seeking further statistical information on the numbers of unaccompanied minors in care / accommodation. In that regard, and as it is an operational matter for Tusla, I have requested that Tusla provide a direct response to the Deputy in this instance.