Care order for 16-year-old adjourned for family therapy – 2013vol2#26

A Care Order application was adjourned for three months and an extension of an Interim Care Order was granted in its place for a teenage girl. She had admitted herself into the care of the HSE several months previously due to alleged parental emotional and physical abuse.

The parents were willing to consent to the extension of an Interim Care Order for three months, said the HSE solicitor. “Everybody in the case recognises that [the teenager] is someone who requires support.” Both parents were “willing to engage in family therapy in order to assist them to develop appropriate mechanisms for supporting [the teenager], that is very welcome from the HSE’s point of view,” he said.

He sought to adjourn the Care Order application for three months, stating that “on-going therapeutic support to this family is in everybody’s best interests.”

The father’s solicitor said that her client was agreeable to the proposal, his decision was entirely without prejudice, in particular in relation to the claims of physical and emotional abuse. He had brought a letter to the court from his son. The judge questioned the relevance of it. The son was over 18.

The solicitor said her client wanted it on the court file. He gave a commitment to engage in family therapy. The psychologist who assessed [the teenager] said there might be a need for psychiatric support. The sequence of events in the past few months had been extremely upsetting for the family, said the solicitor. The teenager had told her younger brother that she wanted to return home.

The judge said he had met with the child last week and she had impressed the opposite upon him.

Reference had been made by the GAL to a prison sentence which took place when the father was 19, the father now felt the relationship between himself and the GAL was badly fractured and that a new GAL should be appointed, said the father’s solicitor. “The guardian is for the child,” replied the judge.

The mother, who was unrepresented, told the judge she would engage in family therapy and any other supports the HSE identified that the family would need.

The GAL’s solicitor said that the guardian had relayed information to the court she felt was pertinent and had not made judgments, she regretted the father felt the relationship was fractured. The psychologist said that the referral to a psychiatrist was due to suicidal thoughts, not due to a mental illness. The guardian supported the agreed road forward.

The judge asked to see the son’s letter. The difficulty he had with the letter was that “it was from an adult that was not a party to the proceedings and was trying to influence the proceedings.” He was anxious to avoid a situation where evidence was brought forward in an improper way.

The judge said he would allow the letter to sit but it was not forming an evidential basis of an opinion. Normally the author would have to be called to give evidence as to the contents.

The social worker told the court that access took place last month and it did not go well. She told the father’s solicitor that the therapies she had in mind for the family were family therapy, where the parents would meet a therapist separately to the daughter. The daughter would also meet the therapist alone. After some preparatory work took place, the family could come together for therapy. The social worker would not be directing the work, that would come from the family therapy centre.

The social worker told the GAL’s solicitor that the referral had not yet been submitted because the centre needed the family’s consent first. She was not clear on the waiting list timeline. In terms of today’s order, if the therapy did not proceed, the teenager would need the consistency of her foster home.

The social worker told the judge that with regards to access over the three months, she would have on-going conversations with the parents, but the last access did not go well. With regards to sibling access, she would encourage informal sibling access which they could organise themselves.

Had she given any ground rules regarding sibling access, asked the judge. The social worker told him that she intended having a phone call with the children in relation to that.

Neither parent wished to give evidence.

The GAL told the court that her recommendations for the future would be that progress would be made in the next three months and that the HSE would ensure family therapy commence as soon as possible. With regard to further access, she felt further preparatory work was required with the parents. She was in agreement with the HSE that the matter be re-entered if things did not go as well as hoped.

She told the judge that the social worker should be involved and present during the first sibling access, so that each of the young people would have clarity with regards to the expectations in relation to access.

The guardian also said that she wanted the HSE to source therapy for [the teenager] outside of the family therapy and parallel to it.

The judge granted the extension of the Interim Care Order for three months, and adjourned the Care Order. He said that in difficult times in a family people often seek to blame one person. He said: “The guardian was doing the job the court had appointed her to do, in these very difficult circumstances,” and he was quite satisfied that she was doing her job, so he would not appoint a new guardian.

(See also Volume 1, case-history 9)