Care Order discharged for teenager who absconded – 2015vol3#32

A Care Order was discharged in the District Court for a teenage Traveller who had absconded from a residential unit six months’ previously and travelled to another jurisdiction to be with his mother.

The court heard that the guardian ad litem (GAL) was supporting the Care Order discharge, as well as the CFA and the mother.

After a missing person’s alert, the teenager had been picked up by the police, he had been found with his brother who was an adult, and the social workers were happy to leave him there.

“It is in [the child’s] best interests to remain with his family in [the other jurisdiction],” said the social worker. “He very clearly feels he is now back with his own people, he was worried and stressed being away from his mother. He has clearly stated that he will abscond again if returned to Ireland, that he would keep running until he reached 18.”

The social worker said she was afraid that he would “go under and maintain no contact” if forced to return to care, he was now liaising with social workers and she had spoken to him about accessing supports to make new friends and seek assistance around getting a more permanent job.

The basis upon which the Care Order had been made was no longer an issue, the social worker told the court. The GAL was also satisfied there was no longer a risk to his health, development and welfare if the order was discharged.

The judge said he had the jurisdiction to discharge the Care Order on the Court’s own motion under Section 22 of the Child Care Act. “The reality is that he’s in [the other jurisdiction] and he’s not coming back,” said the judge, “any attempt to make him come back will cause more problems than him being there.”

The judge noted that there had been a delay with the CFA coming to a definitive view in relation to the continuation or otherwise of the Care Order due to the difficulty with regard to contacting, locating and assessing the child in the other jurisdiction.

He said the detailed social worker’s report concluded that it was in the best interests of the child to remain with his family in [the other jurisdiction] and that it was the view of the social work department that the grounds on which the Care Order was originally granted no longer existed.

“I am satisfied that mother is in agreement with the discharge of the Care Order, and that she supports it, the views of [the child] as expressed to the social worker and GAL were that he expressed himself to be happy where he is and that he does not wish to return to this jurisdiction and does not wish to return to care. If forced to return he would simply leave the jurisdiction.

“The GAL is also satisfied … that it is in his interests that the Care Order to be discharged.”

The judge made a recommendation that the CFA would provide such services as may be appropriate to a person leaving care who had been in care for some time, albeit he was not leaving care at 18.

“A Care Order had not been discharged before under such circumstances,” observed the judge.