A Care Order for six months was granted for a 15 year old boy who was described by the judge to be in a “very dangerous situation”. The boy had threatened suicide and had been taken into foster care as he was locking himself into his room in his mother’s house and was not going to school. The CFA solicitor said that the boy’s behaviour had improved a lot since he was taken into care.
The judge said that the boy should not be returned home without specialist care. He also said that the boy’s mother had a very “ambiguous view” towards the child and that there appeared to be a love-hate relationship between mother and child. The judge said that he was not criticising the mother but he could not solve the family’s problems and that family therapy “of the deepest kind” should be offered.
The mother’s solicitor said that the mother had been very frank with her and pointed out that one of the social work reports had said that if the boy was to remain in foster care contrary to his wishes it would be counter-productive. The social worker said in her report that it would be “precipitous” to return the child home.
The social worker said that there were “functional difficulties” with the boy initially rather than psychiatric issues and she said “there is a long history of difficulties and issues.” She said that the boy had stopped going to school and there was a pattern of the boy moving between his mother and his father. The same social worker said that after a certain amount of time the pattern of non-attendance at school had “entrenched itself”.
The judge said he believed the boy’s mother was more concerned about her relationship with the father than her relationship with her son and “that has to change”. The judge said that he thought there was a very unhealthy relationship between the mother and the child and “that has to be solved”. He said that he thought “the young man is crying for help” and that he was not in a happy place with his mother. The picture that had emerged at the last court hearing was of someone “locked in his room, watching the computer all night … no regular lifestyle”. The judge said that the mother has her own issues but the whole question of the mother’s response to the boy’s behaviour would have to be addressed “professionally and not in a court.”
In relation to the boy expressing suicidal ideation, the mother’s solicitor suggested that such thoughts had only been expressed since the boy had gone into foster care.
The guardian ad litem (GAL) for the boy said that his welfare “always has to be kept under review”. She said that the boy had been able to tell the judge that he wanted to go home when he had met the judge previously but had also adverted to the benefits that he might experience if he stayed in care.
The GAL said in evidence that the boy had asked her to tell the court that he wished to return home but she said that her job was to present to the court his interests as well as his wishes. In this regard she said that she did not think it would be in his interests to return home.
The GAL said that she had a conversation with the boy relating to what happened with young people in care when they age-out and she said that she talked about after-care and how he could be helped when he reached 18. She also said that it was her view that there was a “love-hate” relationship between the mother and the son and that if the son returned home “without professional intervention we will be right back where we started.” She said the boy was very interested in his future and was asking about rent allowance and education options. She said that he was very interested in going home but was also able to consider other options.
In relation to the parents’ relationship with each other the judge said that they had demonstrated “an intensity I rarely see” and that it would be beneficial if the mother thought less about the father and more about the son. He also said that he was hopeful that a relationship could develop between the father and the son independently of the mother.
The GAL said that she had written to a psychiatrist about the boy and although the boy had said that he did not wish to attend the child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS), he had said he was willing to think about attending a psychiatrist. The GAL pointed out that this would require the mother’s engagement and supports being put in place for her also. The GAL said “this child has had good parenting at times but we are in a very toxic situation.”
The judge said that he was demanding specialist family therapy for the boy who has “serious difficulties”. He said that this was the boy’s last chance (for help) and that it was his last chance to get back to education and get his relationship with his mother back on track. The judge said that the boy was “particularly vulnerable” and that there was a very genuine relationship between mother and son but one that was also unhealthy. He said that specialist family therapy was crucial and prevailed upon the CFA to organise it.
The GAL said that she would expect there to be quite considerable work done with the mother and son together.
The judge said that he wanted to “break through bureaucracy in this case” and said he would ask to see the director of CAMHS if “there is any waiting around”. He said this was a case that should jump the queue as the boy was “frighteningly vulnerable” and he said that he did not want a suicide on his conscience. He directed that the case be given priority.
The GAL said that the boy was a “funny bright kid with a good future ahead of him”. The judge agreed with this and said that the boy “had the wit to ask to see me at 14 years of age”. The judge said that he had been impressed with the boy and said that he hoped that the family therapy would transform the genuine mother-son relationship that was evident.
A social worker gave evidence that the boy had previously been taken into care and returned to his mother’s care but “all hell broke loose” on his return. The placement he is now in, the social worker said, was much better and there were other children in the house. The social worker said that it was the view of the social work department that the current placement was working well and the boy was looking better, sleeping better and “to his credit was complying on the whole”. She said that the boy was eating healthily and was engaging with the child-care worker.
The mother’s solicitor suggested that, in the event of a Care Order being made, the boy would be able to return home to the mother’s house on Friday nights. The judge said that there was “no way” he was going to allow the boy to return home as it was clear that professional work needed to be done with the mother and son first. The mother’s solicitor said that she was “perfectly willing” to work with any family therapy services. The judge said that the mother was a “good woman” and the boy was a “great kid but something needs to happen”.
In relation to access between the boy and his mother, a social worker said that she would be concerned that if the boy went home for access the mother would not be able to get him to go back to his foster placement. She said that there had been a number of incidents and that she did not feel that the mother was strong enough to ensure his return to the foster parents’ house. She said “we would be creating traumatic events that are unnecessary”.
The judge asked whether there was a possibility that the mother could spend a night with the boy somewhere near the foster placement as an alternative to the boy returning home which was a “risky business” because it may cause a reversion to old ways.
The mother’s solicitor said that the boy was very attached to the dog in the family home and that was one of the reasons why the mother wished for the boy to have access at home. The mother also wanted the boy to come home to attend her 50th birthday party which was to take place in the house. The boy had expressed a wish to attend the party also. The judge suggested that the boy attend the mother’s party without staying overnight.
The judge, in making the Care Order, said that it was important to distinguish between the boy’s wishes and what was in his best interests. He said that it was clearly in his interests to “stay out of home” and that it was obvious that a return home would have a high risk of failure.
The judge said that the mother seemed to have very little insight and that this was something that would have to be dealt with by a family therapist. He also said that the mother had recognised that she could not cope with the boy’s behaviour and that there was no option for an “à la carte Care Order”. The judge also said that if he had a magic wand he would transport the dog to the foster placement and asked the CFA to look into whether the dog could be brought to the foster placement.
The social worker said that because the social work department had requested that access take place in a location other than the mother’s house it was difficult for the mother to entertain her son “for hours” outside the family home and said that the social work department would have to consider this issue further.
The mother’s solicitor said that it was proving very expensive for the mother to continue to have access outside the house as she had to drive around and pay for food and various other things. It would be preferable, the solicitor said, if the mother could bring the boy home for access and let him see his dog. The judge agreed that it would be better for the boy to have access visits at home but the problem was ensuring that the boy would return to his foster placement after access and said “there has to be a boundary.” The social worker said that the most crucial aspect was that the mother had to accept the boy’s foster placement which she had not done.
The judge said that the case needed to be put in the hands of a family therapist the very next day and that he did not want to be told about a waiting list.
The social worker pointed out that the current foster placement was going very well and that if it broke down it “would be hard to find a placement as good as this.” She said that the mother had always worked well with the social work department and that if the mother had any issues about the placement she would hopefully discuss them with the social worker.
The judge said that there was no such thing as “an ideal placement” and that it must be difficult for the mother to see her son living with another family but he pointed out that it might be “a greater expression of love” to put up with that situation if he was being managed there.
The judge praised the mother for her honesty in saying that she could not cope. He said that he did not think that she could not cope because of herself but because there were underlying issues. He said that he thought “the greater love would be shown in accepting at this time that she could not cope and it was better for him to be somewhere else at this moment in time.” He said that the mother had done her best and had shown courage by saying that she could not cope. He said that the boy was in a good placement, was engaging with people and was better in himself and away from the stressful situation. The judge said that if things kept improving the mother will have made “a very responsible decision even though it is painful.” He also said that both mother and son should get assistance from family therapy. The judge said the young boy was a “very bright guy” with “a lot of potential”.
The judge also said that the boy was the first young person to ask to speak to him directly and “this demonstrates that he is well able to push buttons and get in the door”. The social worker agreed with this and said that she thought that it demonstrated the difficulty between the boy and his mother, that he could “read his mum and say things and request things”. She said that the mother had “almost over-provided” and was in a situation where she could not “say no”. The judge said that the boy was a “clever guy” who was “well able to manipulate” and that he viewed the mother as the victim in the situation.
The mother said that if family therapy had been offered previously that the family might not be in this situation. The judge replied that a lot of people say that but “we cannot control what has happened in the past.” The mother said she was concerned that if a Care Order were to be granted the boy would regress, knowing that he would be in the foster placement for another six months at least. She said she was afraid that he would rebel.
The judge encouraged the mother to support the care plan and said that things will hopefully “fall into place” and that the situation would improve. He said that he believed the mother was being manipulated by the son but that he hoped after the six month Care Order the relationship between the mother and son would have improved. The judge did not make any order regarding access and said that it was in the hands of the CFA. He said that the mother has to prove that she is in control. He asked the CFA to consider the mother’s request for overnight access with the boy for her birthday.