Twins separated after breakdown of placements – 2019vol1#45

A District Court in a provincial town heard that a decision had been made to separate twins whose placements had broken down.

The matter was re-entered on short notice by the Child and Family Agency, following the breakdown of the twins’ most recent placement. The solicitor for the CFA told the court that there were a number of other children in the family. All had behavioural difficulties, and all were subject to care orders until the age of eighteen. The youngest of the five children were school-aged twins, a boy and a girl.

The court heard that the twins had resided for a time in the same foster placement, along with an older brother. Due to the children’s behavioural difficulties, the CFA were of the opinion there was no prospect of keeping them together. The older boy was, therefore, moved to an individual placement and seemed to be getting on fine there. However, an effort had been made not to separate the twins. They were moved together to a further placement, but that placement had since broken down.

The court heard that both twins had a very high level of need. Ultimately, the CFA decided that they should be separated. The guardian ad litem appointed for all five children was in favour of this approach.

The court heard that the twins had now been separated. The solicitor for the CFA said that the male twin was getting on well in his placement. He had been exhibiting troubling behaviour, but the foster placement was capable of meeting his needs.

The court heard that the situation was worse regarding the female twin. She had been placed with an experienced foster carer with relevant professional experience. However, her level of dysfunction resulted in this placement failing. It was observed that all of her failed placements had been with very experienced foster carers. She was now in an emergency placement, albeit with somebody she knew. The solicitor for the CFA indicated that, despite her young age, such is her level of dysfunction that serious consideration was being given to placing her in a specialist residential treatment unit.

The solicitor for the CFA said that the concern with placing the twins together was that the female twin would challenge the placement to such an extent that it would fail for both.

The court heard that the GAL had recommended more contact between the twins, and that contact with the other siblings should take place. These recommendations had been accepted by the CFA.

The solicitor for the CFA informed the court that referrals were being made to all of the treatment units in the Republic of Ireland. Consideration was also being given to treatment units outside the jurisdiction, but it was hoped that this would not be necessary.

The judge stated that he would naturally be inclined to keep twins together. However, in this case the actions of one twin might prejudice the other. Therefore, separating them and placing the needier twin somewhere she could get specialist assistance appeared to be the logical thing to do.

On reading the GAL’s report, the judge stated that it reflected what he had been told about the serious problems with the female twin. He stated that it was obvious this was a child with special needs. He was, however, concerned there had been no access between the twins since they were separated.

The judge expressed a concern about the parents and whether they had any involvement with the children. The solicitor for the Legal Aid Board stated that it was representing the mother. She had been informed of the developments and was concerned that the twins had been split up. There were difficulties maintaining contact with the mother as she would become distressed and angry on the phone and would hang up. The father had been invited to attend but had refused to do so.

The judge concluded that, in reality, he was dealing with children without any input from the parents. He stated that the placements for both twins could be lost if the twins were put together, and that it appeared the placement was working for the male twin. However, he was concerned that the female twin should not be sent abroad. The solicitor for the CFA confirmed that this was a last resort.

The matter was adjourned to a future date when the position of all of the children would be addressed.