Dublin District Court heard a case involving a review of two children in care, child A, a teenager and child B, of primary school age. Child B was in residential care. Child A had been in 35 foster placements. He was in special care on two previous occasions and had a history of drug misuse and criminal behaviour.
The guardian ad litem (GAL) brought an application under section 47 of the Child Care Act, 1991 in respect of child A as she had concerns that he was “spiralling from one crisis to another.” A decision had been made to apply for special care in respect of child A.
The father was represented and in custody. There had been no contact with the mother.
The solicitor for the CFA said child B was in a residential placement. Foster carers had been identified and child B was anxious to go to the foster placement. The fostering committee meeting was due to take place and it was hoped the proposed placement would be approved. The potential foster carers had recently suffered a bereavement and the committee meeting would consider if the family was capable of fostering at all. The social worker previously worked with the foster carers and the foster mother was determined to get back into fostering again.
The social worker said an information-sharing meeting had been provisionally pencilled in to allow the professionals to share the child B’s history and to explore the issues such as the identified foster carers, the practicality of access and school placement. Child B had excellent school attendance and the potential foster carers did not envisage a problem with her moving to a new school. Child B knew there was a move “afoot” and the social worker said the multi-disciplinary team spoke of the child having a chance to say goodbye to her school friends before she moved to the placement.
Child B had been engaged with St Louise’s Unit and was receiving support in the residential unit including various pieces dealing with rejection and the feeling of not being loved. The social worker said they would consider whether the supports would continue when child B moved to her foster placement.
Child B had occasional overnight access with her paternal grandmother. The social worker said they had explored if the grandmother could be a potential long-term placement. The placement with the grandmother did not appear suitable as the overnight access did not go ahead on a number of occasions.
Child B had no contact with either of her parents in three years. The social worker said: “A lot of difficulties had arisen for the mother. [Child B] had two phone calls with the mother and [they] were positive for the child.” There were slightly concerning presentations of child B in managing the phone calls.
The social work department was recommending that the mother engaged in family therapy to re-establish the family relationship. The social worker made contact with the father and he was apologetic for not being in touch with the social work department when he was last released from prison.
Child A was in special care on two previous occasions and “his transition did not go well.” He was involved in the criminal system, remanded to Oberstown and now was missing in care.
The social worker said the team was working hard to meet the needs of child A. He was facing charges for robbery and theft. A probation report had been prepared in respect of a number of his charges. Child A had been granted supervised bail by the Children’s Court but breached his bail and committed further offences. He was recently involved in an incident in which a car in which he was travelling rammed into a Garda car.
The social worker said child A managed to pull himself out of a lull and went back to school but had not been able to extricate himself from criminality.
The solicitor for the CFA asked: “[Will] there be an application for special care since he remains missing?”
The social worker said there would have to be a lot of thought about an appropriate care plan to meet his needs. If child A received a placement, it would be his third time in special care.
The social worker said there were exceptional circumstances in his [child A’s] willingness to engage. There was a massive multidisciplinary team and supports in place for child A. Child A was attached to his peers and suffering from the hurt and the trauma he experienced in his life. There was concern about the people with whom he was engaging after school. Child A had been offered many opportunities including sport. The social worker said: “He [child A] puts up excessive barriers around staff. He is a product of his early life experiences and his care experiences.”
The judge said: “The social worker is at the end of his tether. This is a very damaged [teenage child] and it is very concerning.” The events of his early childhood experiences had not been addressed and the rationale applied to the case had not worked. The judge said: “All of us have failed the child. We must start again.”
The GAL knew the child since he was seven years old and was very concerned about his welfare. She said: “He is a beautiful child and wants stability. He has no emotional connection with anyone. I have been the most consistent person in his life.” Child A was capable of making emotional connections. He made a connection with a social care leader who “got him to school every day.” School was a safe haven for him but was now closed for the summer holidays.
In the last month there were reports child A had been found on the streets in Dublin with blood coming out of his nose. He was using MDMA and there was a concern that drug lords “were out for him.” The GAL said: “He is actively using drugs and alcohol to deal with the pain.” The referral for secure care needed to advance.
The social workers had done their best and brought the issues to the attention of senior management. The GAL said: “I am recommending this to keep him safe.” Child A needed to be stabilised. He was a child in care and the CFA had responsibility for him. The GAL brought the section 47 application to show that something had to be done. She said: “The time line is today to have the child considered for special care.”
The judge said: “Your report has been comprehensive. Put it [the matter] in for mention to ascertain whether you can clarify with the special care committee whether they will entertain the urgency [of the case].” The judge wanted to hear that the application for special care had been despatched as it involved the child’s right to life.
She said: “It is clear that the issue for [child A], will be people, places and things in his life with regards to his addiction. I understand that services have been provided and we cannot lay the blame on [child A].”