Review adjourned where girl experienced multiple placement breakdowns- 2022vol2#35

In the Dublin District Court, a judge adjourned a review of a girl in care under a full care order to allow the recommendations of the guardian ad litem (GAL) to be implemented.

This matter concerned a girl who had been the subject of a full care order for a number of years. The matter had been re-entered into the supervision of the court as the girl’s placement had broken down. (When a full care order is made the judge normally makes directions that if the care placement breaks down or the child is moved the matter is re-entered for the court to have oversight to ensure the child’s best interests are protected.)

The girl in this application had had several placement breakdowns since the Covid-19 pandemic. She had been fostered with her sister, but this placement had collapsed during the pandemic. The next placement also broke down after approximately one year. She was then placed with another foster family which also broke down. She was now in the care of her maternal grandmother.

Evidence was given by the social worker on behalf of the Child and Family Agency (CFA), and by the GAL. The father of the girl had not been involved in her care. The mother was in court and was legally represented. The mother’s solicitor said that the mother, because of her own difficulties, had not been involved with the girl for some time. However, the mother was now in a better place and hoped to re-establish their relationship. The mother had sought the support and guidance of all the professionals involved with the girl to ascertain the best way this should be done.

The social worker said the girl had been placed with her grandmother and this had gone well. She had disappeared twice and An Gardai Siochana had had to be informed. She had been found and was unharmed, however, this behaviour had caused significant concern.

The girl had had no contact with her mother for many years but had inadvertently seen her on the Luas and ascertained the address of her mother’s hostel. She had arrived at the hostel to see her mother. The social worker said the mother had acted appropriately and responsibly and informed An Gardai Siochana and the social worker. A safety plan had been initiated. The girl had been undergoing a psychological assessment but this was not yet completed and the psychologist was to meet with teachers from the girl’s school.

The girl had had many changes, not just her placement, but there had also been changes to the social workers involved with her care and the GAL. The social worker said that currently the girl had stated that she did not want to see or meet with any professionals and this had been respected. As the girl had refused contact with the social workers arrangements had been made with a non-governmental organisation which works with young people at risk, who had offered the girl supports and days out. The social worker said the girl struggled. After a planned visit by the GAL the girl had become heightened and had disappeared.

The GAL told the court the behaviour of the girl gave rise to numerous concerns. She said the characterisation that the placement with the grandmother as having gone well was misleading at best. The GAL said it had not gone well. The grandmother had done her best but struggled. There had been a generational divide. It was difficult for the grandmother to put in place any safe parental controls. Whilst a safety plan was in place it had not offered the grandmother any practical help or solutions.

The GAL said there seemed to be a prevailing belief that the girl was misbehaving and was a problem child rather than this behaviour being a manifestation of her past traumas which had been exacerbated by foster placement breakdowns. She said it was also of concern that the foster father of her sister had also contacted the girl directly by text message which she said had been totally inappropriate.

The GAL said she had asked the social workers to contact the school to ascertain the names and telephone numbers of her friends and their parents and give this list to the grandmother. She said she had been told by the girl she was being bullied at school and had urged the social workers to make urgent contact with the school, but this had not happened.

The judge asked the social worker if she had contacted the school. The social worker replied she had emailed the school but there had been no response. The judge said: “I think a phone call would be more appropriate. Does the CFA have any difficulties with the recommendations the GAL has made?” The social worker replied there were none.

The judge said this was a matter where people had to move quickly, not wait for responses to emails. He said he wanted the recommendations of the GAL implemented and would adjourn the matter for four weeks.