Care order for teenage boy where mother is homeless – 2024vol1#28

A care order was made for a teenage boy whose mother had acknowledged she could not care for him. The father was not engaged.

The solicitor for the mother said she was neither objecting nor consenting to the order being made. He said the threshold was conceded. The mother, who was present in court, was not in a position to resume care of the teenager but he said she had taken a number of positive steps on her own journey to recovery. She had self-referred for inpatient services and had a letter of support from a charity who provide housing to the homeless.

The solicitor said that the mother acknowledged that the teenager was quite settled and was doing very well in his placement and she did not want to unsettle him. She noted the teenager’s wishes, as outlined in the report from the guardian ad litem (GAL), that ideally he would like to return to his mother’s care but if he could not he was happy where he was.

Access between the mother and the teenager had been taking place fortnightly and the consistency had greatly improved. The mother would like to build on that and her solicitor stated that he hoped a section 37 access application would not be required.

The judge said he appreciated the presence of the mother in court and said it was a difficult decision to make.

Social worker evidence

The Child and Family Agency (CFA) social worker said that there had been historical concerns for the family and she said that the teenager had not been cared for most of his life through a round of homelessness, addiction and inconsistency. A voluntary care arrangement had been entered into in-mid 2022 followed by interim care orders since the end of that year.

The mother’s engagement with the social work team was sporadic, but that when there was engagement she was very pleasant and easy to work with. She said that there was ongoing phone contact and access, the teenager worried about his mother and he was impacted if there was no contact. There had been an access review meeting in recent months and access had been much better.

The court heard that the boy was attending a school local to his placement but missed his friends in another part of Dublin. Contact was being planned with his friends.

At the teenager’s child-in-care review it had been agreed that there would be a long-term match in place before end of the summer.

The social worker said the teenager had recently undergone a national educational psychological service (NEPS) assessment and a number of recommendations had been made, including occupational therapy, and some supportive equipment was to be provided at school. The teenager had had a chaotic life and he now needed stability and he needed the supports as outlined in the NEPS assessment.

In relation to his health, she said he had some aches and pains but overall he was doing well. She confirmed that no therapeutic interventions had been provided to date but that occupational therapy may be provided. He was a talented sportsman and he played for several teams.

Referring to the mother, she said what was required was “communication, consistency and contact with the teenager and engaging fully with addiction services to get her into recovery.”

She agreed with the NEPS recommendation that the GAL remain appointed for six weeks, the duration of its roadmap.

GAL evidence

The GAL had been appointed when the interim care order was made at the end of 2022. He supported the CFA’s application for a full care order and agreed that he should remain appointed for six weeks to allow for the NEPS recommendations to be road mapped.

He said the teenager’s first choice was to be returned to his mother’s care, he worried about her, he loved her but that if it was not possible he was happy in his foster placement.

The teenager had absconded twice but that there was no pattern to that. He had been in the town, saw the bus and wanted to see his mother so got on the bus, but he had returned. He was in a good placement. He got on well with his carers and had expressed no desire to leave. He wanted as much contact and access with his mother as possible. If the mother was consistent with her access the access should increase.

The GAL said that the teenager’s passport was due to be delivered.

Judge’s comments

The judge commended the mother on taking the position she had and said it was not easy for a parent to do what was in the best interests of the child. He noted her efforts with the charity that provides housing for the homeless and wished the mother well. He said it was clear from the reports that the teenager wanted to see his mother and that it was important to him.

He said the grounds and threshold of Section 18 (1)(c) of the Child Care Act had been met and given the history the teenager now required stability. He was satisfied to make a full care order until the child reached 18 years of age.