Judge directs child travel by taxi to school to end of academic year following placement breakdown

A judge in a provincial court directed that a girl (A), who would shortly age out of the care system, should be facilitated to continue to attend her current school by taxi as she was unable to manage the public transport system. The girl had been raped when living in her grandmother’s house and had communication difficulties.

The girl’s foster placement had broken down a month earlier and she was now in a general foster placement which was a short-term solution.

The Child and Family Agency (CFA) had placed the girl in a short-term placement and she was due to age out of the care system on reaching 18 years of age in five months. The child’s guardian ad litem (GAL) stressed the importance of maintaining one element of her routine, her school, which was working well.

The social worker informed the judge that she had received a message from the foster parents to say that they were unable to look after her any longer. She had told them lies, had a boyfriend to whom she was giving money and had not stayed at home the previous night. The foster parents had other foster children, who felt safer when the girl was not there.

The social worker said it was unfortunate that this had happened as she had been with these very experienced foster parents and was doing well in her school. She was attending the Leaving Certificate applied programme and had a very good connection with the school as her principal had taken a great interest in her welfare. The judge said that the school had gone to a great deal of trouble and that it was an hour’s journey from the current temporary placement.

The social worker stressed that the current placement was just short-term. The judge said she was concerned that the girl had experienced emotional abuse in a previous placement. The lawyer for the CFA said that she was almost ageing out of care and that they now wanted to advance her aftercare plan.

The lawyer for the girl’s GAL expressed concern that there was a danger the girl could end up back with her grandmother and said that it was better that she stayed with the foster family. The judge warned all the parties that should A return to her grandmother’s home, an immediate application to court should be made as the girl had been raped in that house previously.

The GAL told the judge that A had received some counselling from a trainee psychologist, which had been very successful. Art therapy was now a possibility. The GAL explained that the girl had speech and language issues and was delayed in her processing of language. She might communicate well through art materials. The GAL stressed that the school had been very good and that it was important, if possible, to maintain one stable part of her life for continuity.

She said that A would not be able to negotiate public transport to her school, an hour away. The judge said that taxi transport to school should be used until the end of the current academic year as the bond with the school had been so good. She also directed that the girl should be reviewed by her GP.

The judge listed the matter for a date three months later before A aged out of care in order to review the school attendance and transport issue; to consider how the review by the GP had gone and to recommence either the previous counselling or art therapy.