Judge makes referral to aftercare for exceptionally vulnerable girl – 2022vol1#52

A judge exercised the court’s discretion to make a referral to aftercare and offered the court’s assistance for an exceptionally vulnerable teenager whose interim care order would expire in a month one.

The solicitor for the Child and Family Agency (CFA) told the court the girl would be 18 years in one month. The situation was extremely grave and time was of the essence. The girl was exceptionally vulnerable. Her parents were outside the jurisdiction, and she had entered the state as an unaccompanied minor.

She had been admitted to hospital for almost three weeks following seizure like activity. She needed to be psychologically and/or psychiatrically assessed to ascertain her capacity. It was recognised that a wardship application may need to be made. The CFA was liaising with the Health Service Executive (HSE) disability service but his had been difficult because neither the CFA nor the HSE knew the level of her needs.

The judge acknowledged that he had read the reports from the social worker, the guardian ad litem (GAL) and the hospital and they were sombre. He asked if the position of the girl would be strengthened if she was subject to a full care order. The CFA solicitor said that as she was nearly 18 to be eligible for aftercare, a care order needed to be in place for one year and therefore even if a care order were granted, she would not meet the CFA criteria. However, she said all aftercare was discretionary.

The GAL told the court the situation was calamitous. It was essential the assessments of capacity were done immediately. She had spoken to the psychiatric team in the hospital who would be able to complete this assessment within the next week. Following the results of that assessment, if necessary, an application for wardship could be made. The GAL also asked the court to exercise its own discretion and make a referral to aftercare for the girl. The solicitor for the CFA said they had no objection to this referral.

The judge extended the interim care order for one month and noted it would expire on the girl’s eighteenth birthday. By the court’s own discretion, he made a referral to aftercare. He noted that as the girl would turn 18 on the same day as the interim care order expired, he asked the parties to list the matter for mention in two weeks or earlier if the court could be of any assistance to this girl.