Boy in emergency placement following breakdown of foster placement with relative – 2023vol1#45

The District Court heard an application for a direction that the Child and Family Agency (CFA) immediately identify a long-term placement for a boy with specific needs, in circumstances where his emergency placement was at risk of breaking down.

The solicitor for the guardian ad litem (GAL) said the child was subject to a full care order, but an application under section 47 of the Child Care Act, 1991, was before the court in circumstances where the GAL was seeking the court’s direction that the social work department immediately identify a long-term placement for the boy.

The boy had been in the care of his maternal aunt initially, but this placement ultimately broke down and he was moved to an emergency placement, where he remained. The CFA had been advised that the placement could be at risk owing to staffing levels, but the risk was not immediate.

The boy had an autism diagnosis and a referral to the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) had been made, but there had been “little to no progress” for a long period of time. He had only just been seen by CAMHS and a report was now awaited. It was stressed that this was not the fault of the social work team, but it was an unacceptable situation. A referral to a specialist service for trauma had been made to identify what specific supports could be put in place for the boy, and the initial assessment was due to take place in the coming weeks.

The CFA solicitor said the boy had been in the emergency placement for the past three weeks and he was relatively settled there, but agreed it was not appropriate for his needs, and there was a significant issue with staffing levels. She said the boy had anger issues and difficulty regulating emotions. A further referral had been made to the children’s disability network team (CDNT) in this regard.

The parties were in agreement that the matter should be adjourned for a period of one week to monitor progress in relation to the CAMHS report.

The judge sought clarity as to whether there was an immediate risk of the special arrangement coming to an end. The GAL solicitor said the advice was that while there was no immediate risk to the placement, “the situation could change at any time and the matter would have to be re-entered.”

The matter was adjourned for one week for further review, with a caveat that if there was any change in the placement circumstances in the interim the matter could be re-entered.