Child absconds from residential unit and goes home – 2016vol1#17

During the High Court Minors’ Review List the court heard that an unplanned reunification took place when a child absconded from her residential unit. The child [A] had previously spent time in secure care, however the social work team were not considering a further application in that regard.

It was only one week since the reunification and [A] was currently sitting exams. The barrister for the CFA told the court that things were going reasonably well, the child was engaging and “making a real effort to make being at home work”. However there was concern that she had minimised her behaviour on the night of her placement breakdown.

A full support service was in place for the child and her father, which included ACTS and her guardian ad litem (GAL). As she was the subject of a Care Order, the child and her father had signed an agreement to say that if she went missing a protocol would be followed. The court heard that [A] accepted she met the criteria for secure care. The CFA asked for the matter to go back for three weeks.

The barrister for the father told the court that his client had not anticipated the short term reunification and it was not appropriate to abandon the idea of secure care. It was only one week since the reunification had occurred, said the barrister, and it was too early to rely too much on the optimism of the social worker, the minor’s behaviour was very challenging for the father. However as long as there continued to be sufficient supports, at this juncture it seemed living with her father was the best way forward as long as secure care was pursued.

The barrister for the GAL told the court that due to the unplanned reunification, supports were needed and there was also a second issue related to parallel planning. “She should remain on the secure care list but a private placement needs to be identified, the situation could unravel at any moment, [A] cannot control her impulse to abscond, she has said she is committed to making this work but it may not be enough.”

However the barrister for the CFA pointed out that currently the social work department did not feel an order for secure care was needed, which meant she did not therefore meet the criteria for secure care. An application could be made at short notice if there were availability. Furthermore there were difficulties in finding her a suitable placement given the breakdown in her residential one.

“She is very oppositional,” remarked the judge, “I have great sympathy for those trying to assist her. [A] has her own view about everything. She has to learn to say no to herself with regard to absconding, she won’t listen to anyone, even the judge. She put this in rude terms in the presence of the GAL [in court while meeting the judge]. It is not appropriate for the social worker to have to put up with this. [A] is big and bold, well fit to put her point of view across, she should now learn to put it in polite terms and learn to stay with her father.

“The responsibility of [A’s] safety now lies clearly with [A]. She achieved the return to her father despite the views of the social workers. She must now stand up and be counted as an emerging adult and carry responsibility for herself. I personally don’t think the application for secure care should be made at this time.”

The judge put the matter back for three weeks when it would come back in for review.