Full Care Order granted for child in secure care – 2019vol2#15

Dublin District Court granted a full care order until the age of 18 for a child who is in secure care, to come into effect when she leaves. The court discharged the child’s relative as a guardian and directed that her wishes be obtained regarding access and the possibility of appointing her father as a guardian. The child would be leaving secure care and moving to residential care under the care order in the near future.

The court heard that the girl’s mother, who was now deceased, had had addiction issues, and her father was being currently being treated for similar issues. A was placed in voluntary care with a relative, however the relationship had since broken down. Following this, and due to her challenging behaviour, she was placed in secure care. The court heard A was doing well in secure care and the CFA was seeking a full care order until she is 18, permitting her to leave secure care while remaining in care. The court was told that the child’s relative was supportive of the application.

The social worker told the court that the girl initially came into care in 2014 due to ongoing concerns about her mother’s drug use and her inability to provide for her practical needs consistently. The plan was for the mother to stabilise in her drug treatment but she passed away in 2015 and the child continued in the voluntary care with her brother in the relative’s home.

That placement broke down for the brother initially and then for the girl in 2016. She went to a number of foster placements short term, including a family placement. She moved to a residential care centre in Aug 2017, where she exhibited challenging behaviour after the death of her mother. She made an allegation against her relative’s partner and the placement broke down.

The girl was reluctant to have the relative involved in any decision-making relating to her. In the residential unit she was missing in care quite often, she would not confirm where she was or what she was doing, although she was with her father on some occasions. She did remain in phone contact but that deteriorated as well and she withdrew from staff.

Counsel for the father told the court that he had no instructions on whether or not his client was consenting to the order being made, but did inform the court that the father was aware that the application was being made. Counsel for the father later asked the social worker present if the CFA would support the father’s application for guardianship of A if the father decided to make such an application at a later date. The social worker confirmed that they would support the father in making such an application.

Summarising the background to the case, the social worker told the court that A had suffered trauma, particularly around the death of her mother. The court was told that A was vulnerable and suffered from low mood, however she is warm, bubbly and very popular with the staff and other children. The social worker said that A was a bright child and eager to engage in activities in secure care.

The solicitor for the CFA questioned the social worker on the key supports being explored for A once she leaves secure care. The social worker stated that referrals for counselling and mainstream supports were being examined, particularly supports to help her with her attachment and sensory issues. The court also heard that the girl struggled with one-to-one meetings.

The CFA solicitor questioned the social worker on the CFA’s attempts to ensure there is no gap between A leaving secure care and the start of support programmes and on the attempts made to secure a school placement for A. The social worker responded: “We will see what is available and the timeline. We have looked at many support services so she has support during her transition.” The social worker said that A had a lot of therapeutic support when younger. The social worker told the court that there are two school referrals and they were hopeful that A would get a placement before the transition from secure care to residential care.

The social worker added that the girl’s father was very supportive of her and encouraged her to complete her education. She had a very good relationship with her father and younger brother and that these relationships were very important to her.

The court directed that the wishes of A be obtained regarding access with her father and whether she would like her father to become a guardian.

The matter was adjourned to come back before the court in three months’ time to review progress and to ensure that the school placement and supports are in place.

A review of the care order was listed for spring 2021 and the care order would be in effect until then.