Interim care order granted for brothers in voluntary care since 2011 – 2021vol1#42

The District Court granted interim care orders for two brothers who had been in voluntary care since 2011, pending the hearing of a full care order application. The solicitor for the Child and Family Agency told the court the CFA did not like to keep children in voluntary care arrangements for too long and wanted to formalise the position of the children and the agency.

She informed the court the mother did not have legal representation but was consenting to the application. She said the social workers had been unable to contact the father, they believed the father had had no contact with the children since their birth and now resided in another jurisdiction.

The social worker told the court the children had entered voluntary care in 2011 when they were about to enter primary school. There had been concerns about neglect, emotional and physical abuse and issues of domestic violence with the mother’s then partner. The children were placed within the same foster placement. She told the court that most unfortunately some years later it came to light that child A had been sexually abusing child B. She told the court a safety plan was made to try to maintain and sustain the placement but that a year later it came to light A was abusing a third child and he was moved to residential care. B remained in the foster placement.

She said that child A initially did well in the residential placement but a year earlier grave concerns arose for his mental health. He had significant self-harm episodes and spent a good deal of time in hospital. During the period of hospitalisation it was disclosed that A had engaged in sexual relations with other residents of the residential unit.

On discharge from hospital A was moved to another residential unit. The social worker told the court there was a safety plan in place for the child which was being reviewed every two to three weeks. She said that child A was linked in with all possible service including child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) and social work services. The residential team had also been referred for psychological support to help best manage A’s needs.

The social worker told the court that A had been expelled from school at the start of the academic year in 2019 and this decision had been appealed. By the time the appeal was heard and resolved the schools were closed because of Covid 19. Given the mental health issues that the boy had, it would have been too difficult for him to start a new school in September 2020. He had had been accepted on a Youthreach programme.

A had had sporadic phone contact with his mother since 2014, she said. The mother was very worried about the boy and consented to the application.

She said B remained in his foster placement and was doing well. He was attending school, was in his Junior Cert year but was not academic. She said there were plans for a psychological educational assessment to be done. B was receiving appropriate supports and had contact with his grandparents.

She had never had any contact with the children’s father. She believed he had left for another jurisdiction many years ago and she was unaware of his whereabouts. She was asking the court for an interim care order to regularise the care status of the children and an application would be made for a care order. She said she also wanted the court to appoint a guardian ad litem (GAL), preferable male, as many of A’s carers were women and it would be beneficial for him to have a positive male role model.

Granting the interim care order, the judge stated that the grounds existed for the order and for the appointment of a GAL. A specific GAL was nominated. The judge acknowledged the father had no part of these children’s lives and there was consent for the interim care order for two months.