Bespoke placement sought for teenage girl abruptly evicted from placement – 2023vol1#46

The care placement of a teenage girl was terminated abruptly while she was at school, and she was not allowed to return for her belongings. She had lived in the placement for two years. The girl’s guardian ad litem made a complaint about the manner in which the placement had ended. The judge asked the lawyer for the Child and Family Agency (CFA) to set out the details of the ending of the placement and report it to Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA).

The teenage girl had been in the care of the CFA for some time. The court heard that she had been asked to leave an unregistered placement 24 hours after receiving an assurance she could stay. The girl had had a troubled history with numerous placement breakdowns. She had previously been subject to a special care order and had been in secure care. She had a history of absconding from her placements. Her mother and father were both serving prison sentences.

Following the termination of the placement the teenager spent the first night in a hotel. A special emergency arrangement was subsequently entered into with a placement in Dublin and the teenager would be able to stay there for one week with an extension for one further week.

The solicitor for the CFA told the court the current placement was not meeting the girl’s needs but she was safe there and it was available to her long-term, however the girl regularly absconded from it. She said a bespoke placement was in the process of being procured. It was hoped it would be available imminently. She said the placement would be a single, secure long-term placement that would meet the girl’s needs. The solicitor said there were weekly core group meetings which planned for the girl’s needs. The girl had been referred for psychological and psychiatric assessment.

The guardian ad litem (GAL) told the court that he had raised the issue of a secure long-term placement for many months. He said the girl had been placed in an unregistered placement which had been totally unacceptable. He said this placement had assured the girl that she would not have to leave and within 24 hours of this assurance, they had packed her bags and called the social workers to collect her. This would have been upsetting for anyone but for the girl it had been devastating. He said: “They had assured her she could stay but within 24 hours they had gathered all her belongings into black bags, called the social workers to collect her. It was devastating.” It was an absolute priority that the girl had a place to live that was safe and secure.

He said both parents were in prison, they had a toxic relationship which had meant the girl had parented her younger siblings and her parents. The girl had many difficulties because of this. Her younger siblings had not wanted to see her and this had caused the girl great upset. He said her father had been recently convicted for an attack on her mother, the details of which had been posted over many social media platforms, this was yet another adverse blow upon the girl.

The GAL said that he had no criticism of the social workers on the ground working directly with the girl but did have criticisms of the management in the CFA for not securing a safe place for this girl to live. He had written to the CFA to ensure a placement was found but had heard nothing.

The judge said: “How can I help? Would it help if I make directions?”

It was agreed between the parties the review would be adjourned to allow the girl to be moved to the bespoke placement. The judge gave liberty for any party to re-enter the matter if it was needed.

Review resumed

When the review resumed a report from the guardian ad litem (GAL) was handed into court. Neither the social worker nor the GAL was in court but the lawyers for the GAL and the CFA said they would deal with the application by way of submissions.

The application before the court centred around the breakdown in the placement. The service provider had given four weeks’ notice of the termination of the placement, however the previous week the placement was ended with immediate effect.

The court was informed that there were also criminal charges before another District Court in relation to a number of assaults the teenager allegedly carried out on the staff of the service provider. In the related District Court matter the Gardai wanted to remand the teenager but the sitting judge released the teenager on bail.

Representatives from the service provider had told that judge during the criminal hearing that the placement would not end for four weeks, however when the teenager was at school the following day an email was sent terminating the placement with immediate effect. The teenager was told she could not even return to collect her belongings.

The lawyer for the GAL was keen for the GAL to give evidence and suggested pushing out this case to the end of the month.

The court was informed that the GAL had filed a complaint in relation to how the termination of the placement had been dealt with. The GAL had also asked that aftercare be looked at, but said the primary concern at present was a suitable placement.

The teenager had had a difficult background – both parents were currently in prison and had reconnected with each other despite the fact that the father had assaulted the mother, resulting in the prison sentence.

The judge asked that the other judge (hearing the criminal case) be made aware of the circumstances of the termination of the placement. He also asked the lawyer for the CFA to set out the details of the ending of the placement and report it to HIQA. He requested that this be done before the next date with a copy of the report to be filed before the next hearing date. He said that this was a request and not a direction.

When the court recommenced at a later date  it heard that the placement had broken down three months earlier. The court was informed that the teenage girl was still in the temporary placement and was stable. There had been just one notification over the Christmas period which was good for this teenager given past issues.

The CFA was looking for a single occupancy place for the girl, however, despite updated profiles being completed, there was just one response following the canvassing for the placement and it was a no.

The GAL indicated they were looking for a timeline to be set for receipt of responses and for the up-to-date position to be communicated weekly. The GAL also asked that the CFA confirm that the matter was being prioritised. The girl was due to turn 17 in a number of weeks and a single occupancy placement was required. A case involving the girl’s siblings was due before the court next week.

The GAL said that the accommodation where the teenage girl was currently placed was not HIQA approved, the girl had received no therapy to date and was essentially being warehoused. The parents were both in prison. In the past the girl had acted as parent to her parents and she was having difficulty accepting that the parents chose one another over her and her siblings, despite her mother being assaulted by her father. The breakdown in her previous placement had coincided with the assault between her parents.

The judge said that the matter could not continue with the girl being warehoused like this. He said it was not good enough, and in an unapproved residency. The judge said it could not continue to exist and needed to be red flagged.