Two aftercare reviews took place in the District Court on the same day for two teenagers who were the subject of long-term Care Orders. However the judge noted there was “a chasm of difference in the aftercare reports [for two] young people with vulnerabilities not too dissimilar.”
In the first review the court was told that the teenager (A), who had severe mental health difficulties, would turn 18 later this year. She also had psychological and educational difficulties and was currently in residential care. Funding had been approved for a full year in a residential assessment and intervention centre. The mother of the teenager was not involved in her life.
The other review involved another teenager (B) who was due to turn 18 in four months’ time. Her father was deceased and her mother was an addict who had minimal contact. Also the subject of a full Care Order, she was already placed in the residential assessment and intervention centre due to mental health issues and placement breakdown. However there was no funding in place for her on-going placement and on-going therapeutic support.
The teenager wished to remain in her residential centre and although she had returned to school would not sit her Leaving Cert until she was 19 (she had missed school due to mental health issues). A longer package of care was being recommended by the guardian ad litem.
Both teenagers had aftercare workers allocated to them as well as GALs.
The judge asked the solicitor for the CFA why the funding had not been approved for teenager B. She had just completed “a review eerily similar to this,” she told him and the funding was in place for a year.
Judge: “Why hasn’t funding being approved for a year, what’s the rationale? This is a child with very particular needs who is very vulnerable, which is acknowledged in the social work report. I don’t understand the rationale for the differential in treatment for vulnerable children, I’d like that explained to me.”
CFA solicitor: “I can’t explain that, I hundred per cent accept your point and how you make it, Judge.”
The solicitor for the GAL told the court that a professionals’ meeting was coming up next month and the guardian would continue “to make every effort to make the voice of the child brought to the meeting”.
The judge said she had met a young person that morning who would be leaving care very shortly. For the purposes of education the girl had sought to interview the judge.
The judge noted how confident and resilient the young person was, and how well it had turned out for her, she had “all of these ambitions” and wanted to achieve them. “Unfortunately that isn’t the experience for [teenager B], she has a number of vulnerabilities, very well identified in the social work report, her prognosis is far less certain. This is an unusual case in that way, it fits in with a minority and I would be anxious that the professionals’ meeting considered it in that context and come back before the court.”
The judge said a funding package had been approved for a year in a similar care plan [in a previous case that morning], certainty needed to be provided “in the very particular circumstances in a small minority of cases”.
“It’s just coincidental and unfortunate that I’ve had such a chasm of difference in aftercare reports come before the court today and seeing young people with vulnerabilities not too
dissimilar and seeing a different remedy for aftercare, I don’t understand that.”
The judge asked for the case to come back within six weeks to update the court on the funding issue.