Dublin District Court judge reluctant to make order for vulnerable girl in special emergency arrangement – 2024vol1#44

The issue of vulnerable children being placed in special emergency arrangements (SEAs) was raised by a judge in Dublin District Court when the case of a vulnerable girl came up for review.

The solicitor for the Child and Family Agency (CFA) told the court that the teenage girl, the subject of this review was in a special emergency arrangement (SEA). There were concerns regarding her absconding and having unprotected sex. She had also had to obtain the morning-after pill. The court was told that there was an ongoing lack of engagement between the child and adolescent mental health service (CAMHS) and the GP and that the CFA was making efforts to obtain a long-term placement for the girl.

The solicitor said the guardian ad litem (GAL) had suggested special care and the CFA was looking into this. She said a family welfare conference was planned for two weeks’ time and there was a lot of parallel planning happening for a special care application, which would include reports from the Gardaí. The GAL was of the opinion that a special care application needed to be made as soon as possible.

The judge said the child was in a special emergency arrangement which was not approved and not registered. He asked: “Are the CFA standing over this?” He said the CEO of the CFA had said at a recent conference that she was not standing over these placements. It was not acceptable that the CFA’s CEO could not stand over the placement and yet the court was being asked to stand over them. The child was at a very high level of risk, she was getting into cars with unknown males. He said he was not willing to put his name to any order where the CFA’s CEO was not willing to do so. He asked were the staff Garda vetted?

He adjourned the case for one week. He said that the GAL’s recommendations for special care needed to be considered, but that special care applications took time. The court was being put in an impossible situation and he wanted confirmation in writing from the agency that it was standing over the placement as being appropriate, and if not they were to come to court to explain.

The case was put back for one week with liberty to re-enter.