A judge in Dublin District Court granted a full care order in respect of a teenager with complex mental health difficulties until such time as she reaches 18 years of age next year. The teenager’s mother consented to the application.
The social worker informed the court that in her professional opinion the grounds existed for the granting of a full care order. She told the court that the CFA had made an application for special care in respect of the teenager but that the application had been refused by the Special Care Committee on the basis that the teenager did not meet their criteria. However, the social worker noted that the CFA had only just received the rationale for the Special Care Committee’s decision the day before the court hearing and had not yet had time to consider it.
The social worker informed the court that the teenager had been in a placement in an apartment with other young people and staff. The girl had been very unhappy with this arrangement. As a result, she had returned to her grandmother’s home and had remained there since. The teenager had been doing well at her grandmother’s home during the previous two weeks. When the social worker had met with her she had been in good form and chatty. The social worker agreed with the GAL that the teenager needed a suitable placement – a sole or dual occupancy arrangement – but that such a placement had not yet been found and the search was continuing.
The social worker stated that, during her most recent placement, the teenager had disengaged from all services and her presentation had become more concerning. This eventually led to a very serious incident which resulted in the end of that placement.
She said that the teenager had made some progress but a previous placement had also ended in similar circumstances.
The social worker informed the court that the teenager had complex post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD), expressive and speech and language difficulties and a borderline cogitative disability. She also had emotional difficulties. She explained that the teenager’s difficulties stemmed from complex childhood trauma.
She stated that the teenager required a capacity assessment in order to determine if she was capable of living independently. However, it had not been possible to secure such an assessment prior to the court’s hearing of this care order application.
Both the teenager and her grandmother had declined offers of supports, including an offer of a residential placement. However, the social worker expressed a commitment on behalf of the CFA, that should her placement breakdown again, special care would again be considered.
The social worker confirmed that the teenager was currently out of placement and agreed that she needed an appropriate placement and security of care. She stated that the teenager had herself previously expressed worry about being in care under a voluntary agreement and that this anxiety had begun to evolve into an anxiety about “what happens when I turn 18?” She teenager would turn 18 during 2023. An aftercare social worker had been allocated to the teenager for some time and an aftercare needs assessment had been concluded. The aftercare worker had tried, but had not been able, to meet with the teenager. However, a meeting had now been scheduled.
The social worker said that the teenager demonstrated a pattern of behaviour in which she had periods of stability but that she was not able to keep it up all the time, which then led to periods of difficulty. She added that this pattern was rooted in deep-seated trauma.
The recent special care committee decision and rationale would be discussed with the principal social worker and on foot of this discussion, the CFA might ask the committee to review their decision. She reaffirmed the CFA’s commitment to conduct a capacity assessment with the girl.
The guardian ad litem (GAL) supported the CFA’s care order application but was concerned by the fact that the CFA had not yet secured a suitable placement for the teenager and was also concerned that the special care committee had found that the teenager did not meet its threshold for special care.
The GAL told the court that she had met with the teenager approximately one week after she had returned to her grandmother’s house. The teenager had told the GAL that she had been very unhappy in the previous placement and that she had found it very stressful and difficult. The teenager said that the agency’s staff had not treated her well. Regarding the claim by agency staff that the teenager had assaulted them, the GAL stated that the teenager had denied this to her.
The GAL said that the teenager was “fine” staying with her grandmother for the moment, but that she did not want to be in that area long-term because her stepfather lived in or around the area and the teenager was very uncomfortable with this.
The teenager had told the GAL about her experiences during the occasions that she went missing from her placement. The teenager said that she had been in the city centre and had been hanging out with homeless people there. She said that she had been offered drugs, which she had refused, but she was very worried that, when she turns 18 and was without support, she would take the drugs. She showed the GAL some video footage that she had on her phone which showed her hanging out in the city centre. The GAL told the court that she had spoken to the teenager about the levels of risk to which she was exposing herself with such behaviours.
Describing the teenager’s repetitive behavioural pattern, the GAL said that the teenager had periods of stability and then “things explode” and that these episodes were difficult to predict.
The GAL said that the teenager had previously complained about being sexually assaulted on five occasions. The GAL noted that these complaints were allegations only, but that she was concerned the teenager, as a survivor of sexual assault, was re-enacting behaviours that put her in very high-risk situations. However, the teenager’s more recent sexual assault allegations were very difficult to follow-up as her life was so chaotic. The GAL felt that the teenager was caught in a cycle and was not making progress. She added “there was no healing happening”.
The GAL said that the only support that the teenager was receiving currently was from CAMHS to obtain her medication.
The GAL stated that the teenager wanted the care order to be put in place but that she was very worried about becoming homeless once she turned 18 years of age next year. The GAL emphasised that the teenager would require huge aftercare support. She recommended that a capacity assessment be completed as soon as possible. She informed the court that, while she believed that the teenager could manage her own affairs once she turned 18, she would be very worried about her if she lacked support. This was why it was vital that the aftercare plans would be in place by the time the teenager turned 18.
However she acknowledged that it had been very difficult to identify psychiatrists to carry out the capacity assessment on the teenager. She also said that she was very worried about how all these items of work would be done if the teenager did not have a secure placement. She added that she was definitely worried about the Special Care Committee decision and was not in agreement with their rationale, but that she needed to take some advice in this respect.
The judge asked the GAL if it was her opinion that it would be in the teenager’s best interest to make the care order, to which she responded yes.
The judge noted that the application before him was for a full care order and that everybody was in agreement, including the teenager herself, that it was in her best interest that such an order be made. He said that he would like to see the matter coming back before him early in the new year for review and he reiterated the need for a placement to be put in place as soon as possible. He was disappointed about the decision of the special care committee.
The judge then made the order that the teenager be taken into the care of the CFA until she turned 18 years with the usual section 18 order directions and no further special directions.
He further ordered that the matter be listed for aftercare planning early in the new year. He also listed the matter for review in one month’s time in relation to the placement issue.