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Tuesday 5 December 2023 Dublin: 4°C

Court hears child who set fire to bedroom wants to go to college

The case of two children due to leave state care were discussed in court.

A COURT WAS told an aftercare programme for a child in State care had to be put in place despite the teenager being reluctant to engage with relevant agencies.

The court was told that neither her mother or father were present during a hearing last month.

The judge was told a plan needed to be put in place for when the teenager completed her Leaving Certificate. There have been behavioural issues with the child with one incident recorded where she set fire to a bedroom.

The court heard attempts have been made for the child to see a psychiatrist but she only attended on one occasion and walked out before the session was finished.

To date, the child has missed more than 30 days of school this year. Her social worker said she can’t seem to grasp the concept that she needs to attend school in order to do well in her exams.

She doesn’t see the importance in going to school and thinks she will do well.

The judge said that it was positive the child had expressed an interest in third level education. “However, the reality is, this could all fall apart if she doesn’t attend school,” he added.

The judge asked whether family members in her life might be able to offer some encouragement and questioned whether residential placement should be conditional on signing up to further education.

The social worker said the the child seems to ‘think that everyone is wrong, bar herself’.

The judge said this was not unfamiliar in many circumstances with young people.


In another case, the court also discussed the aftercare plan for a young man. His social worker said he was doing “extremely well” in school and had plans to go on to further education.

The judge was told that neither his father or mother were court and that contact was sporadic.

The boy was said to be upset during his last access visit with his mother. The mother says she is inconsistent with her visits due to money, however, the child is aware she has been away on holidays.

His social worker said he was doing very well in his foster parents and will stay on with them after he exits State care.

The child’s guardian ad litem said she was concerned that no aftercare plan was yet in place. The judge said a draft plan should be in place ahead of the boy completing his exams.


These two cases highlight the work required of State agencies to ensure that children leaving State care are still being looked after. A child does not stop being parented when they turn 18 and the same must be the case for children who have been raised in the system.

Epic, a group set up to empower young people in care, helps teenagers move toward independence in adult live. Aftercare services are provided to young people up to 23 years of age, or until they finish full-time education.

The group has put together a guide to leaving care by people who have been through the experience. The extensive 187-page document includes practical information on housing, banking, education, work options and recipes.

It also outlines what can go wrong, including details on homelessness, drugs and alcohol and legal rights.

In a video on Epic’s website, Dwane recalls how he regrets not engaging with an aftercare plan when he first left residential care.

“Don’t be scared, take every little bit of help they are willing to give you. Because, in the end, if you don’t take that help and you’re on your own, you will regret that. I regret that now because there were so many other opportunities for courses and education that I could have went through that she offered me and I just didn’t. So, go for it. Take everything you can get,” he concludes.

EPIC - Empowering People in Care / YouTube

With reporting by Sinéad O’Carroll

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