Appropriate placements sought for two separate teenagers – 2023vol2#30

The Dublin District Court heard of difficulties in securing appropriate placements for two separate children, one of whom was showing signs of severe emotional distress, and the other had had three emergency placements in a short period.

Teenage girl

In the first case the court heard a review in relation to a teenage girl in a residential placement who was refusing to eat and was urinating in her bedroom. She was also found to be absent from the placement and had had to be brought back by Gardaí on a number of occasions.

The solicitor for the Child and Family Agency (CFA) said there were four important issues to address in relation to the girl’s needs. The issues included her bathroom use, food intake, daily routine and education. The girl’s previous residential placement had broken down and she was very unhappy in her new placement.

The CFA solicitor said it was clear the teenager did not want to remain in care, and consistently left the placement early each day, returning very late at night. Worryingly, she had started to urinate in her bedroom on towels, clothes and in her rubbish bin. She was also refusing to eat any food provided by the placement, and was only eating what her mother was bringing in for her.

The court was told the plan was to facilitate the teenager with a personal bathroom for an interim period which would hopefully resolve her toileting issues. An interim diet plan had also been put in place and the girl had agreed to go shopping with staff to choose her own food.

The girl was also refusing to attend school and a number of failed efforts had been made to try and get her to go. The solicitor said she had been enrolled in a course as an alternative, but she dropped out of this. She was now enrolled in a different course and the hope was that she would see this through, as it was agreed she could stay in her mother’s house the evening before the course was due to take place each week.

In evidence, the social worker said that a safety plan had been put in place for the teenager for periods when she left her placement and failed to return. The plan was that staff would link in with her regularly via text message, and if she did not return before curfew, she was given thirty minutes before An Garda Síochána would be alerted. This had happened on a number of occasions, unfortunately.

The father’s solicitor said the father had major concerns for his daughter’s welfare in the placement. The solicitor said there was mention in the guardian ad litem’s (GAL) report of the girl returning to the unit under the influence of substances on a number of occasions. The father was also concerned that the girl acted out when she did not get what she wanted.

The GAL said the teenager’s toileting issue was not something which she had struggled with in her previous placement and that it was “unusual behaviour to say the least.” She said a referral for private trauma counselling was necessary, but the CFA was only at the very preliminary stage of organising an assessment.

The judge said that while there was some movement in addressing the girl’s issues, this was “not necessarily a measure of progress” as of yet. He said the teenager was very clearly suffering from emotional distress and that the “key to unlocking the issues may be a psychological or psychiatric assessment.” The judge said this was wholly necessary, and above all, urgent. The child remained at risk and a further review date was required in the circumstances.


Teenage boy

In the second case the District Court adjourned an application for a direction that the CFA identify a long-term placement for a boy who had moved among multiple placements in a three-week period.

The CFA solicitor said that an interim care order (ICO) had recently been granted for the boy who had previously been residing with his grandmother. His mother was currently uncontactable and his father was deceased. The ICO had been necessary in circumstances where his grandmother was going on holidays and there was no one else to care for him.

The boy had been placed in emergency accommodation initially, and was then moved to a short-term placement the same week. He remained in this placement, but it was due to end in a day’s time, his third in a short period. It was for this reason that the guardian ad litem (GAL) had brought an application for a direction in relation to the placement issues.

However, the court was told that a further short to long-term placement had just been identified. As such, there was agreement that the GAL’s application would be adjourned to the date of the extension of the ICO.

The GAL had serious concerns for the boy in light of his age and the fact that he was displaying concerning behaviours. He was very familiar with changing placements and seemed okay with the changes initially, but later displayed worrying behaviours. He was about to move to his third emergency placement, which was only confirmed as lasting for a number of months. The boy needed stability in his life in light of the upheaval he had experienced to date.

The court was told that despite the CFA’s hope that the new placement would be long-term, this was not yet known. The GAL had only been notified of the placement change that morning so he had no chance to meet with the new foster carers. The GAL had significant concerns about the frequency of the placement moves, so it was necessary to keep the application for a direction in this regard alive for the time being.

The judge said it was concerning that the boy had been moved “so often in such a short amount of time” and agreed it was appropriate to allow the GAL’s application to stand to the date of the extension.