Interim care order extended for only two weeks as assessments and information on placement registration awaited – 2024vol1#10

A judge in Dublin District Court refused to extend an interim care order for a teenager beyond two weeks because he considered there were too many unclear issues to warrant extending it for a longer time. A full update was due to be provided by the solicitor for the Child and Family Agency (CFA) on the next court hearing date. The parents were consenting to the extension.

The teenager was living in a special emergency arrangement (SEA). The court was told that the unit was in the process of being registered as a long-term placement. The CFA solicitor told the judge that a letter had been received from the regional chief officer and more specific information had been provided as requested by the judge on the previous hearing date.

The mother for the child was consenting to an extension of the interim care order (ICO). However, she was frustrated at the lack of progress. She was also concerned that the teenager had been out of the care unit and out and about in the community.

The father was also consenting to the ICO extension as he was not in a position or a place to meet the teenager’s needs. The guardian ad litem (GAL) was supporting the ICO extension application, however she said she had concerns in relation to the teenager’s placement. The staff were all very nice but that what was required in this situation was seasoned, experienced staff and the unit needed to be managed by TUSLA.


GAL report

The GAL’s report stated that it appeared that there was a lack of control within the unit. The GAL also requested that the CFA set out what specific units had been contacted as an alternative placement and which ones were managed by TUSLA and what was the occupancy rate within those units.

The court was told that the teenager had been shaken as a baby and that the professionals were looking into whether or not the symptoms she was currently experiencing were due to that. The teenager needed a cognitive assessment and it was suggested that perhaps CAMHS could assist.

Care order dates had been set for mid-2024. The teenager had had no attendance at education for over a year and the GAL suggested that perhaps an inpatient admission was needed to get this case moved along.

The court was told that there was yet again another meeting arranged for the following week and somebody had been identified to carry out a cognitive assessment. The court was also told that the teenager was due to transfer to another branch of CAMHS in the northern area of the country.

Concern was raised that when the teenager had returned from having gone missing she complained of genital pain and swelling, but no medical issue was diagnosed. The teenager was due to be referred to a specialist unit for further review as she had made a similar complaint previously.

Judge’s decision

The judge asked what the timeline was for the registration of the special emergency arrangement placement. The CFA solicitor said that they were working with the county council in relation to an indemnity issue. The judge also raised a question in relation to the teenager’s education, and was told that the teenager was registered with Youthreach, an alternative to formal education.

The judge said that he would extend the ICO for a period of only two weeks given that there were many matters that were unclear in relation to the assessments that were needed, including the specialist assessment, and the issue in relation to the registration of the residential placement. He said that the GAL seemed to have a number of concerns and that the teenager seemed to be the one in control in the placement. The judge said he was not satisfied, that many matters were unclear.

The judge said he did not want to see a repeat Groundhog Day on the next occasion and required a full update, including responses to the GAL’s questions and information the special emergency arrangement registration by the time the case came back before the court.

Subsequent hearing

At a subsequent hearing of this case, approximately seven weeks later, the court was told that just the previous day a special care order had been made by the High Court and a bed had been made available for the girl. The CFA solicitor however, told the court the girl was currently missing from her placement and the Gardaí had been given powers to find her and were out currently searching for her.

The positive news was that a bed was available for her once they located her.

The court was told that owing to the special care order having been made in the High Court the case would be back for review monthly before the High Court.

There of course was concern that she was missing whilst in care. The legal representatives thanked the judge and the court for the court’s oversight in relation to the case. The case had been listed weekly before the court in recent times.

In relation to the interim care order (ICO), the parents consented to the ICO being extended beyond 28 days and on that basis the judge extended the ICO to the date agreed just beyond 28 days.