Catholic foster child can attend Protestant school, Irish judge rules

shutterstock 60775753 Photo of a rural school building in Ireland. Via Shutterstock

A judge in Ireland has decided that a Catholic girl in foster care can attend a Protestant Church of Ireland school, even though the girl was raised Catholic and her Catholic parents do not want her attending the school. 

Details of the case came to light Monday, following the release of a report by the Child Care Law Reporting Project earlier this year. The report provided an outline of nearly 50 specimen child care cases from around the country.

In issuing his ruling, the judge said that the issue of religion had "bedevilled this country for many a long year."

The girl's foster siblings attend the Protestant Church of Ireland-run school, and a judge agreed that it would be in the girl's "best interests" to attend that school as well. The judge argued that attending a different school than her foster siblings would hinder her integration into her foster family. 

The girl's mother's lawyer argued to Tusla, the country's Child and Family Agency, that her religious beliefs had not been taken into consideration over the two years that her daughter had been in foster care. The mother did not object to the foster parents or accuse them of mistreating her daughter, but rather was concerned that her child's religious needs were not being met.

The girl's social worker said that she was "very settled and happy" in her foster home, and that religion had not previously been an issue. 

The Church of Ireland school the girl would be attending agreed to facilitate instruction for the girl's First Holy Communion. After confirming this, Tusla agreed that the girl should attend the Church of Ireland school. 

In Ireland, religious groups administer the large majority of schools, and children generally attend a school affiliated with their family's religious beliefs.

Just over 90% of these schools are run by the Catholic Church. The Church of Ireland administers just under six percent of the country's primary schools.

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