Case re-entered where teenager’s placement broke down; girl had 13 previous placements – 2023vol1#48

A case came before Dublin District Court on foot of a re-entry related to a placement breakdown. The court heard that a very specialised placement had been obtained but due to behaviour issues the placement had broken down. The girl’s mother and grandmother were both deceased.

The teenage girl had significant needs, including intellectual needs. She did not like the mix of people in the unit. When the placement broke down the teenager had spent the night with family and had then moved to a foster placement. The court heard that the teenager has had thirteen previous placements. She had previously been in the emergency placement that she was now in.

In relation to foster care, a potential early response had been received and the court was told that the Child and Family Agency (CFA) would try and work with it. The CFA said they were also looking at special arrangements. However, a previous carer needs to be further assessed. The court was asked to adjourn the matter to allow for the plan to be examined and also to see if the emergency placement could keep her until that time.

The solicitor for the guardian ad litem (GAL) indicated that the teenager had a very good affinity with a previous secondary school principal. She had not participated in education and did not want to know about jobs. The court was told that the mother was deceased and the grandmother was deceased and the aunt had thrown her out of the home.

The court heard that she had scant relations with her siblings and she was possibly in a relationship with an older person. The other placement that the teenager had been in had disabled children living there and she had nothing in common with them. The court was told that it would be great if the previous foster carer could take her again.

The case was adjourned for further review and the aftercare plan was listed for the end of the next month.

Subsequent hearing

The CFA’s lawyer told the court that the teenager’s father was not in her life and her mother was deceased. She had been living with her aunt. She said that an aftercare review was planned to take place later in the month. She said, regrettably, the teenager’s placement had broken down and the matter was before the judge that day in order to update him regarding the teenager’s situation. The teenager was currently with foster carers with whom she had previously been placed. She had experienced a number of moves, but that the current placement had been going quite well and it was planned that she would remain with these foster carers and that subsequently she would move to residential care.

The teenager was not in formal education at that time, but it was planned that she would go to YouthReach. The teenager suffered from a mild learning disability. The CFA’s lawyer told the court that the previous residential unit had not worked out as the other children in the unit had more profound disabilities, both physical and intellectual, and it had not been in the teenager’s best interests to remain there. She asked for liberty to apply for a GAL in the event that the current foster placement broke down.

A social worker from the CFA had met with the teenager the previous week and she had told the social worker that it had been very stressful not to have a long-term plan in place. The foster carers had also told the social worker that the teenager had regressed since she had been with them previously. She said that these foster carers had an emotional investment with the teenager, the placement was a better fit for her and she hoped that it would last. She added that it was ridiculous that the teenager was not in education and that there ought to have been much more positive encouragement for her in that regard.

She understood that the teenager’s behavioural difficulties stemmed from being bored and that they had really escalated in those circumstances. The teenager had a fabulous singing voice and was actually quite gifted in that regard.

She told the court that the teenager’s issues in her recent residential placement reflected her mounting frustrations. Her behaviour had become quite alarming but that they did not accord with the teenager that she knew. She said that the teenager did not have an obvious disability. It was the case that she tended to be more abrupt with people and she found it difficult to understand how systems worked. She added that once you knew this, you could adapt to accommodate these difficulties, but the general public would not understand.

The judge agreed to re-enter the case and adjourned it for three weeks to the date of the scheduled aftercare review hearing.