Judge refuses CFA application to remove a teenager from foster placement; directs CFA and foster carers to engage in mediation immediately – 2023vol2#29

A judge in a provincial District Court refused an application by the Child and Family Agency (CFA) to move a teenage boy (A) from his foster placement due to historic child abuse allegations against the foster carers. The CFA had failed in the same application two years earlier. The judge stated that the case demonstrated failure on the part of the CFA earlier. He directed that a proper safety plan be put in place and that the parties engage in mediation immediately. The judge warned the parties that failure to obey his order would be a contempt of court.

The teenager had been with the same foster carers since infancy and was the only foster child in their care. The foster carers had adult children. The foster carers, the guardian ad litem (GAL) and A’s mother were legally represented and opposed the application by the CFA to move the child. The court heard the evidence of a clinical forensic psychologist from the USA, two social workers, the GAL, the mother and both foster carers. The evidence of the school principal and a child psychiatrist were also heard. The case was heard over five days.

Clinical Forensic Psychologist’s evidence

The court heard evidence from the USA by video link from a clinical forensic psychologist, Professor B. He had been commissioned to do a risk assessment of the foster carers in relation to physical and sexual abuse. The court heard he specialised in child protection and sexual violence. He had worked in prisons and treated thousands of individuals for acts of violence, exploitation and abuse of children. He authored textbooks and journals and had expertise in criminal investigations across the USA. He provided worldwide testimony and was an adjunct Professor of Psychology. He had come to Ireland to do his assessment of the foster parents and was assisted by a UK police expert in polygraph testing.

The foster carers agreed in 2022 to be risk-assessed and polygraph-tested by him and gave their permission to be recorded. He described the assessment process as voluntary, where participants could refuse to answer questions and they could stop at any time. He said the process was unbiased and the assessment of risk was done in the fairest way possible. He used a Minnesota multi-factorial inventory tool as well as the polygraph testing as part of his assessment. He had also read the previous expert’s report, presented to the court two years previously.

Professor B said that nothing significant arose regarding mental health, criminal history, substance abuse or employment history regarding either of the foster carers. He said there was no evidence of a sexual disorder or diagnosis of paedophilia or attraction to teenagers. However, he considered the foster carers had attempted to manipulate the assessment process. He said they had asked him prior to the assessment about the type of tests and questions. He considered there could be no other logical explanation other than this was done to prepare the answers to the foster carers’ own advantage.

The foster carers’ barrister challenged this assumption and said Professor B was quick to jump to a conclusion that they were trying to manipulate the process. Professor B agreed with her that the logical explanation was there had been a misunderstanding of the process as the expert two years previously had provided them with some of the questions in advance. He described the foster father’s actions of pausing and stretching throughout the testing as a manipulation of the testing by the exaggeration or “malingering” of medical symptoms. He accepted the foster father had acute symptoms of fibromyalgia pain and needed to move and stretch and this could be exacerbated by stress but he said he could not rule out the manipulation of symptoms where the stakes were high in an adversarial situation. He said the test was written so it could be completed by a child of average intelligence in 15 minutes and the foster father took two minutes per question.

Professor B disagreed with the foster carers’ barrister that the presence of one of the CFA social workers during the assessment created bias and said she was there to facilitate the process. She put it to him that as an independent witness, it was entirely inappropriate for Professor B to have a discussion with the social worker regarding the foster father coming back after lunch entirely remediated from his fibromyalgia. He said professional feedback was important. He also disagreed that he had been influenced by the previous expert’s opinion in the case when she said references to the previous expert were “littered throughout his report”.

He said both foster carers engaged in what he described as “impression management” and “faking good” where they tried to present themselves as ideal parents and in an overly positive light. He gave an example of the foster father’s denial of ever being angry or having marital arguments. He said everyone engaged in impression management. It became a problem when people pretended they were someone they were not and did not acknowledge common weaknesses but presented a fake profile. Consequently, Professor B said the tests were invalid and could not be interpreted.

Risk of physical and sexual abuse

The professor said there had been historic allegations of physical abuse against the foster carers and he had found a consistent pattern of allegations of physical restraint. He said he did not believe these were out of malevolence but in situations where the foster father had wanted the child to calm and listen and not out of anger, dominance or power. He described how the foster carers had cared over the years for children with challenging behaviour and intellectual disabilities. He believed the restraint sometimes went beyond what the foster carers acknowledged and he did not think that the foster carers talked about this honestly.

When asked about what this meant for A, Professor B. said he had no doubt the foster carers loved the teenager and the idea of him being hurt would anger them. However, he had no confidence that if A tested boundaries and limits that the father would control his temper or report back to the CFA. The foster father might hide the fact as the foster carers believed the CFA targeted them and if someone came to investigate, they would minimise and blame the system. He said the foster carers saw it as a war with the social workers, at stake was the foster child and their status as foster carers and Professor B had zero confidence they would disclose an issue to the social workers. He said there was no evidence the foster mother posed a risk of physical or sexual exploitation, but described her as evasive in her answering.

Professor B said the father had passed the polygraph questions but the mother had not. The questions were based on pre-test interviews and he said the mother’s polygraph result came up as “deceptive” when she was asked if she had known anyone to be aggressive. He said she was evasive in her answers when asked about alleged incidents, replied with answers such as “there is no way” or that she had “absolutely no recollection”. When asked about her son allegedly hitting another foster child, she said the boys played roughly. He said she dismissed some of the previous children’s behaviour as “disturbed” and her son’s behaviour as “the right to defend himself”.

When asked about what this meant for A, the professor said it would be irresponsible to say the boy was not at risk of physical abuse but he would disagree with the previous expert that there was a significant risk. As a professional, he said it was difficult to report to the court when the tests were not valid and the carers did not co-operate with the tests. He said some of the historic allegations did not have a great degree of substantiation and went back over a number of decades. The previous expert had reported that this was an open question until there was evidence to the contrary and had considered this a risk factor.

Regarding the risk of sexual abuse from the foster carers, he said most importantly he did not see sufficient evidence that the foster child was at risk. He had approached this in a fair and unbiased manner and he was comfortable closing that door. However, he said there were some credible historic allegations against the foster carers’ son, who as a young adult might have engaged in sexual or inappropriate touching with a previous young person in their care. He said it was implausible that the foster parents did not know and they were more likely to defend their biological children than the victim. When asked why they believed that the allegation did not happen, they had replied that the boys and girls were on different floors and this type of contact was not allowed.

The professor said the foster mother was blaming the foster child for being sexualised. He said she had an ethical obligation to give the CFA everything they needed. The child should have been protected at the time and he did not see that in the records. The court heard the young girl in foster care who had made the allegation later retracted the allegation in a handwritten note, which was on file. He said he did not believe the foster carers would condone or act complicitly in the sexual abuse of children by others, but that if there were allegations against a family member, he believed they would hide it. He said their adult sons should not have any contact with minor children in their care.

In cross-examination the professor denied that he was making sweeping statements about the foster carers without any evidence of their interfering with child protection investigations. He acknowledged that, to their credit, they had notified the CFA and the Gardaí but in the case of their son they had not given his address.

The court heard that historic allegations against the foster carers went back to the 80’s and 90’s, many years before A was placed with them in 2008. Although the CFA had some information, these allegations were not put together until 2016. He agreed with the foster carers’ barrister that there had been a change to how matters were now dealt with by the CFA. There had been an historic allegation made in 2010, two years after A was placed with the foster carers. Professor B agreed that the CFA made the decision that A should stay with the foster carers from 2012 under a full care order and there had been no reference to any harm to A throughout all this time.

The solicitor for the GAL told the court that the GAL had spoken to A, with the permission of the court, about why he was having all the social worker visits and about how there had been some concerns about other children being ill-treated. He had denied being ill-treated by his foster carers. The GAL lawyer put it to the professor that a child should be believed when he was saying something positive, and he agreed that when the child was being properly interviewed by a competent person, a denial of ever being abused should carry some weight. He also agreed the child loved the foster carers.

The court heard there were protective measures in place for A, such as regular visits by his GAL, a meeting with a psychiatrist every six weeks, school support daily, fostering link social work visits and his age as a factor in safety planning. Professor B did not accept that a 15-year-old was more likely to inform someone about abuse than a younger child as he said it depended on the child.

The GAL’s solicitor said the GAL’s preferred approach was to increase the safeguards and for the boy to remain with his foster carers. The GAL was of the view that to remove A would cause him significant psychological and emotional damage. The potential outcome could be A’s refusal to move and this would likely lead to the breakdown of an alternative placement.

Professor B said he was not committed to the boy staying or leaving his placement. He said the risk assessment was not a catch all, it was more complex and needed context. He stated that there were no criminal convictions and that he would put more weight on a criminal conviction but would use logic and his academic training for similar fact patterns.

The court heard from the mother’s barrister that she favoured her son remaining with the foster carers and that she was aware of the nature of the historic allegations. She said the mother had given evidence at the previous hearing that she did not believe the allegations. She had spent a lot of time in the household when she was younger, no concerns had arisen regarding her son’s care in his foster home and she had a sense of who her son spent time with around the home.

The mother’s barrister told the court that the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) had closed involvement in the case in 2019 and had provided a letter to senior management of the CFA that the social work department had taken every step to safeguard A. The barrister said she was aware there had been mismanaged files and lost records and there were valid concerns that the CFA had failed in respect of the historic allegations. She said the mother believed the CFA were now acting to “cover themselves” and not acting in her son’s best interests.

Foster carers’ and CFA social workers’ relationship and engagement

Professor B described the relationship between the foster carers and the CFA as hostile and adversarial. He said the foster mother acknowledged “going over the social workers’ heads.” This could be intimidating for the social workers. He said this arose from what he understood as historic allegations, many of which were not investigated and there was a lack of co-operation with authorities. The court heard that the allegations were being investigated by CFA social workers not involved with the foster family through the Child Abuse Substantiation Process (CASP), and there had been gaps when the case was unallocated. He said there was a risk that the foster carers would continue to have an adversarial view on child protection and would not report things that might happen.

The foster carers’ barrister put it to Professor B that they said they got on with 90 per cent of the social workers over the years. The hostile relationship was a two-way street and he had been very critical of the foster carers’ side of the relationship. He agreed there were two sides to the relationship, but he had only been asked to address the foster carers’ role with the CFA. He accepted they had a positive relationship with one of the foster link social workers and kept her informed and were respectful in her presence but said he needed to look at the totality.

Professor B and two foster link social workers, who worked with the foster carers, described what they called “disguised compliance” or superficial co-operation on the part of the foster carers with the CFA. An example of this was where the foster carers were willing to work with safety planning but only under certain conditions. The foster carers were polite and completed progress reports but this was on a superficial level and they could not get a sense of the foster child’s home or social life. There needed to be a protective net and accountability.

CFA barrister: “Would it be fair to characterise [it as] she knows better than the CFA?”

Professor B: “Not in a completely arrogant way. Sometimes she appears to have very little tolerance for younger social workers who were not parents and saw the solution as going over their heads.”

Two social workers gave evidence covering their experience of working with the foster carers over the previous six years. They both told the court it was difficult to engage with the foster carers. They spoke of the gate to the property always being closed when they arrived, even when visits were pre-arranged. It was accepted, when put to them by the foster carers’ barrister, that the foster carers lived in a rural area with livestock and a locked gate was a logical explanation. One of the social workers said she had been to hundreds of houses and there were pleasantries but there was a sense of awkwardness and a sense of not being wanted and feeling uncomfortable in this particular foster home.

The solicitor for the GAL put it to the social worker that the psychiatrist seeing the boy said the foster carers had done an amazing job and the school principal said the boy was getting on well with peers and staff and that this was in complete contrast to what the social workers were saying. The social worker accepted that while evidence and feedback from the school was very positive, working collaboratively remained an issue and trust, honesty and openness were integral to this.

One of the social workers gave an example of an incident where at his first teenage disco, A had to be taken home and the foster carers considered he may have taken drugs. They had stayed up with him rather than calling the out-of-hours emergency service or bringing him for medical attention. It was put to the social worker that A was resistant to attending hospital and they accepted the foster carers had disclosed the incident and had talked to A about the danger of drugs.

CFA barrister: “What difficulty does that present if you cannot engage?”

Fostering link social worker: “For any child with the children-in-care team, it is essential to form a relationship, where you can oversee [that A’s] needs are being met and they are happy”.

The judge asked the expert about whether the relationship between the foster carers and the social workers could be repaired. Two years previously, the same judge had directed that the CFA social workers and the foster carers enter into mediation.

Judge: “It appears to me the big issue is between the social workers and the foster carers. Do you see any way this could be repaired in your opinion?”

Professor B: “I’m not a pessimist. There were many opportunities to repair and I haven’t seen that occur… the situation [is] so entrenched, adversarial, and so much resentment and anger. I don’t see how it would occur.”

In evidence, one of the social workers said the recent assessment was an opportunity to move past the difficulties in the relationship and to work together but there had been no progress. She said this was impossible when an open and honest relationship did not exist and you could not have a safety plan if you could not monitor the placement. When asked by the foster carers’ barrister about whether the CFA had a responsibility to repair the relationship but had not tried all avenues, she replied that she was hopeful of mediation if there was more openness.

The judge referred to a transcript of the previous hearing two years ago and said he had made it quite clear about the importance of mediation and asked the CFA why this had not occurred. The CFA barrister said they were waiting for the assessment report which was completed six months earlier and then they were waiting for hearing dates. The judge said he was extremely dissatisfied with the CFA and would hear all the evidence and the case would then be concluded.

The impact on A of a change of placement

The court heard that A had a diagnosis of foetal alcohol syndrome and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and he experienced more trouble regulating his emotions than 80 per cent of his peers. He currently received support from a child psychiatrist, his school staff and his foster carers. The social workers accepted the child psychiatrist’s opinion that the change of placement would cause trauma to the boy.

The court heard the foster carers in the proposed alternative foster placement did not have experience of fostering teenagers. They had experience of dealing with special needs as they had adopted a pre-school age child with special needs and would engage with therapeutic supports. The change of placement would not mean a change of school for A.

The GAL’s solicitor put it to the social worker that this was not an appropriate placement and she was not looking at the issue holistically. She said it was difficult to place adolescent boys and placement breakdown could lead to multiple placements and residential care and A could be placed anywhere in the country. The social worker acknowledged the gravity of removing a child from a family but said it was about balancing risk and she could not stand over the current placement continuing.

Social worker: “My role is to ensure a high quality of care and [prevent] potential risk of harm.”

GAL’s solicitor: “But you are putting him in a situation where there will be emotional and psychological harm [which could] lead to a breakdown in school and placement and a level of harm.”

Social worker: “I can’t disagree but from my professional view there is a higher risk in a placement where there were concerns regarding allegations which teenagers made against the foster carers, and [they] had not disclosed at least one of these to us.

“There isn’t any evidence, but colleagues have had extensive contact with the foster carers [and] there is a pattern of an extensive list of allegations and whether founded or unfounded there is a potential for harm going forward.”

GAL’s video-link evidence

The GAL was overseas for the week of the hearing and gave evidence via a video-link. Unfortunately, the quality of the link was extremely poor and there were frequent interruptions, repetitions and breakdowns in the communications. In order to marginally improve the quality of the audio evidence, the visual link in the video was switched off.

The GAL told the court that she had concerns before A was placed with the foster carers but that the CFA had not investigated the allegations for some considerable time and by then A had settled with the family. She said that A was currently the only child in the foster carers’ home and this reduced the stress and was a protective factor. She highlighted A’s good relationship with the foster carer’s daughter as an additional protective factor. The GAL said that A’s good relationship with his school staff and his very good school attendance meant he could talk to teachers about any concerns. He had a relationship with his mother and could contact her independently on his mobile phone.

The GAL said that A, who was now aged 15, had a right to have his voice heard and be an active participant in his own safety plan. She described the relationship between the foster carers and the social workers as very strained. She said that in other similar cases, she was kept informed and involved. She had wanted to discuss alternatives to the CFA’s application to move A from his placement, but only got a response from the CFA’s solicitors rather than an acknowledgement.

GAL: “That to me is a strong indicator of unwillingness to work collaboratively with me. My views were not sought. That’s untypical.”

The GAL told the court that a change in A’s placement would have an adverse effect on A’s mental health as he would be traumatised by moving to a family who did not know him. She said he had just over two years left in the care system. The current foster carers could pick up on any nuances in A’s behaviour and they got him to school every day and provided support and encouragement.

She said that her recommendation was that A should stay with the current foster family as it was the least risky option for him. When the CFA’s lawyer asked about the “superficial engagement” by the foster carers, the GAL said there were failings on both sides and the foster carers believed that the social workers were trying to catch them out. When asked if the foster carers would deal with an allegation “in-house” rather that divulge it to the CFA, the GAL said moving A’s placement would deliberately risk traumatisation of A and the option of least risk was to leave him in his placement with robust safety planning.

The mother’s evidence

A’s mother told the court that her son was placed with the foster carers as an infant, with her consent. She regarded the foster family as a “second family” to her. She said she had never seen anything that caused her concern with his placement. She had had a conversation with him about his foetal alcohol syndrome. When asked about a possible change in A’s placement, his mother said if he had to leave the placement, it would destroy him. He would probably try to run away and return to his foster family.

Mother: “I didn’t bring him into the world for this to happen to him… just leave him alone to get on with his little life”.

The foster mother’s evidence

The foster mother told the court she had been looking after children in care for 30 years, along with children for respite periods and pre-adoptive care. The only problems she ever had were in relation to one child, who she requested to be moved following an allegation against her own son and also the lack of services available for all the children.

When her barrister asked the foster mother about “faking good”, she said she hoped that was not how she portrayed herself. She disagreed with Professor B’s assertion that she might not report allegations to the authorities and said that she kept a written diary. She disagreed that her relationship with the CFA was broken and irreparable and stressed that “any relationship is repairable.” The foster mother said A disliked the social workers visiting in pairs and felt they were watching them.

The barrister for the CFA asked the foster mother what she thought of Professor B’s report, which described her as evasive and as having a lack of candour in her answers. She replied that she had answered the questions truthfully. The judge asked the foster mother if she could understand the concerns of the CFA and she replied that she did understand and that there needed to be a meeting of all parties to work together in A’s best interests. She added that she had found things much more difficult since the beginning of this case as it changed the relationship with the CFA to an adversarial relationship and everything needed to be written down. The judge asked the foster mother if she would be surprised that he also found her answers to be evasive and vague.

CFA barrister: “The CFA has to be able to work in an honest way. You and [foster father] are the blockage. You see the CFA as the enemy.”

Foster mother: “I’m not bitter. I’m hurt, very hurt.”

The CFA barrister reminded the foster mother that she had been offered an opportunity to retire some years ago. The foster mother said that A came into their lives and they loved him and wanted what was best for him.

The foster mother’s barrister asked her about the incident when it was thought A’s drink was spiked at a disco and he was not brought for medical treatment. She replied that A had to be sedated for any medical treatment and that she believed he would be alright after a number of hours. She admitted that she was wrong for not seeking treatment.

The foster father’s evidence

The foster father told the court that the electric gates were essential as the home was a farm. His barrister asked him about Professor B’s assessment and he said he had asked some questions beforehand because the previous assessment process was “unreal” and he wanted to know if it would be similar. He said he believed that an independent social worker should have been present for the assessment rather than one who was already deeply involved. The foster father’s barrister asked about the allegation of inappropriate contact made by a child against his son. The foster father said he recalled something about it but that his son was an adult with his own children and that he had sought his son’s consent before his address was given to the CFA.

The foster father described the night of the incident at the disco. He said that A panics and after weighing up the odds, they decided to bring him home instead of to a doctor.

Foster father: “[A] is my child but he is my buddy… we don’t want his life to be ruined by a wrong decision of this court.”

The barrister for the CFA suggested to the foster father that his malingering during the assessment left less time for the interview. The foster father said he took medication at lunchtime and finished many more questions after that. The barrister remarked that it must have been “magic medication”. The barrister listed some of the findings from Professor B’s report on the foster father. It concluded he was a low risk of sexual abuse but there was a real risk of physical abuse if stressed or tired. It concluded that he almost certainly knew about the earlier sexual abuse allegation but did not report it.

CFA barrister: “Can you understand how these findings were very concerning to the CFA and they must act on this… the CFA is the legal parent.”

The CFA barrister asked the foster father a series of questions regarding his ownership of land and his sons’ ownership of land. She questioned why this had not been discussed with the CFA. The judge intervened after some time when these questions were not leading to relevant information.

The judge asked the GAL’s lawyer when the GAL was due to be back in Ireland and said he would arrange a final date to hear the GAL’s evidence in person.

Judge: “There is a very real prospect that the child will be moved. I direct that the voice of the child be obtained as soon as possible”.

The matter was then given a further date for the conclusion of the case.


GAL’s evidence

The GAL gave evidence on the wishes of the child. She informed the court that she had met A on three occasions in the past month. She had informed him of the possibility that the court might decide to move him to a different foster family. Child A made it very clear that he did not want to move. He stressed that he felt safe where he was. Despite A’s reluctance to answer questions, he was eager to engage in order to make his wishes known. He asked questions about the proposed foster family and wanted to know if he could see them. The GAL said that she explained to A that the social work department had to make sure that children were kept safe.

The GAL told the court that the overall wishes of A were that he wanted to stay with his mum and dad (foster carers) or in the alternative he wished to stay with his birth mother as at least he said he knew her. A had informed the GAL that he felt safe with his current foster family, he was not being hit by anybody, nobody was being mean to him and finally that he felt well cared for.

The GAL informed the judge that she had spoken to A’s foster sister, who remembered him coming to the family as a one-month-old baby and becoming such a valued member of the family. She said A had a positive influence on her own child and walked to the school bus daily with him. The report from A’s current psychologist concluded that it would be detrimental to A’s mental health for him to be moved at this stage of his development. The report stressed that it would take A at least 10 years to get over the trauma of moving to a different foster family.

The GAL’s lawyer asked her what recommendations she was making to the court based on the child’s wishes. The GAL replied that she recommended A to stay with his foster family with safety monitoring. She further recommended that A’s safety plan should be revised to take account of his views, especially in relation to his request about family photographs.

The GAL stated that A now understood the process of meeting with the social workers and was not opposed to these meetings going forward. She suggested that a review should take place every six months until A reached his 18th birthday. The GAL advised the court that A’s psychologist would not continue to provide therapy if the child was moved to an alternative foster family as he would be too dysregulated to benefit from therapy.

The social worker stated that A’s school had been very helpful and had reported that he was doing very well in school, having no behavioural problems. He had an especially good relationship with two teachers and confided in them about his worries regarding a possible move of foster placement. The social worker told the court that A’s psychologist had taken on a piece of work with him which would be impossible to continue supporting if A moved placement as the necessary trust would be gone. The psychologist reported that he was concerned for A’s mental health if he had to move placement.

The social worker described the transition timetable that would be used if A was being moved to a new placement. This would involve two to three weeks of visits, concluding in a permanent move at the end of three weeks. The foster parents’ lawyer asked the social worker about the clinical oversight of the transition. The social worker replied that a clinical psychologist would be engaged if necessary. The lawyer and the judge both asked the social worker if any of these people actually knew A personally. The social worker replied that they did not. The lawyer said that this echoed the conclusion in the psychologist’s report when A had told the psychologist, “they all keep changing. They don’t know anything about me.”

Foster parents’ lawyer: “Do you think [A] will engage if he’s moved and feels his voice is not heard?”

Social worker: “I don’t know.”

The mother’s lawyer asked if there was a “Plan B” as the child had made it very clear that he did not want to go. The social worker said she was not sure but that all options would be considered. The lawyer stressed that massive gaps would open in A’s care if he was moved. It would affect his schooling, his therapy and his trust in the supportive adults.


The judge, in conclusion, said that the evidence was as he expected. He said that the wishes of the child were as he expected them to be. He explained that he had reviewed all the evidence the previous day and had come to a preliminary conclusion. He summarised the history of the case so far and said that A had been placed with the current foster family when he was just one month old. Several interim care orders had been made and subsequently a full care order was made until age 18.

Following the receipt of evidence of historic abuse and a lack of engagement by the foster parents, the judge said that A should never have been placed with that foster family. He stated that the lack of engagement and the disguised compliance of the foster parents was evident.

Judge: “It was a failure of the CFA.”

The judge described the poor engagement between the foster parents and the CFA and said that the foster parents regarded the social workers as an “inconvenience to be put up with”. There was a lack of honesty of engagement. He added that Professor B deemed the foster father to pose a risk of physical abuse due to his impulsivity but deemed the risk of sexual abuse to be low. The judge referred to the current psychologist’s concern that A would engage in substance abuse or self-harm if he was moved. The conclusion had to based on a balance of the overall risk to A.

Judge: “Both parties have become entrenched and A’s welfare was lost in the process.”

The judge reminded the parties that they had been before the court two years previously, when they were advised to seek mediation but that they had failed to do so. The judge said the court had to have regard for the wishes of this child. He wanted to remain with the foster family he had always known.

The judge decided that he would refuse the application of the CFA to move A to an alternative placement and ruled that A was to stay with his current foster parents. He also advised the CFA that he would not entertain any application to seek costs.

The judge adjourned the matter for three months and ordered that a proper safeguarding plan be put in place and that mediation take place. The judge stressed to both the CFA and the foster parents that he was very serious in making this order and that failure to comply strictly with the order would be regarded as a contempt of court. The judge directed that a copy of his order was to be sent to the Chief Executive Officer of the CFA. He strongly advised the parties to start engaging honestly.