A care order review took place in the Dublin District Court via virtual remote hearing regarding a young Irish person (B) who had been placed nearly 10 years ago in a children’s home in the UK which catered specifically for children with attachment disorders.
The solicitor for the CFA told the court that the young person’s foster care placement had broken down in 2018 and the case had been before the court on a number of occasions since that date as he had had a number of placements as well as being remanded in custody. She said that he was a young person with complex needs who had not had the best start in life. He therefore needed a lot of supports.
Neither parent was involved for most of his life and his father was incarcerated on remand. The guardian ad litem (GAL) and social worker were both in agreement that the matter had to remain before the court.
The social worker was sworn in by way of affirmation via the video link. She then told the court that B was currently in a residential placement in the UK where he was doing well. He had returned there after being released from a young offenders’ institution and was currently engaging really well with his Youth Justice worker. However, he had received a final letter warning last week for missing two calls from her but had been informed that this would be cancelled out if he did engage for the next two weeks without any problems.
The young person was also in phone contact on a regular basis with his CAMHS worker in Ireland and had a good relationship with her. He was getting on quite well with staff in his residential placement and while he had been finding the Covid-19 restrictions difficult he had abided by the rules for the most part. An aftercare worker was due to be assigned to him in the following month and his case was before a steering committee and going forward the social work department in Ireland would be in contact with the local authority for his area within the other jurisdiction. The social worker confirmed that she would make contact without delay with that local authority.
She said the GAL was advocating strengthening family relationships in Ireland prior to him turning 18 and she was in agreement with this and had been in contact with the Irish Prison Service with regards to the possibility of establishing contact with B’s father. The advice from the Irish Prison Service had been that the best form of communication would be through letter. B also had informal contact with his sisters through social media, said the social worker.
The barrister for the GAL told the court that one of the current primary concerns was aftercare in terms of education. The young person was receiving one-to-one lessons as his literacy level was basic and therefore his ability to attend a group education programme was very limited. Another primary concern was his placement post 18.
B did not want to return to Ireland. “He has no significant adult figure in his life, the most significant figure is his GAL who has been with him for 10 years and [will be] ceasing that role when he turns 18…when the GAL and the CFA leave the stage he will be left very isolated unless something is done in the intervening years to strengthen family relationships,” the lawyer said.
The GAL, who had to attend the virtual hearing from his car due to the fact that none of the consultation rooms were open in the courthouse he was outside of, affirmed via the video link. “The Court Services have advised that the consult rooms are closed for the purposes of COVID, my apologies,” he told the court. The judge sympathised with the GAL that he did not have a consultation room to carry out the video link from.
In evidence, the GAL told the court: “The real worry is given the level of need that [B] has when he turns 18, there really isn’t a big safety net for him, we’re looking at the local authority for providing services given that they will have the greatest number of resources, and they are happy to engage as long as the Irish authorities pay for those services, that would be a much better situation than funding through private providers, and it is much more preferential that he would be in the English system.”
There was quite a lot of work to do between now and the boy turning 18, said the GAL and in terms of his family it was quite important about who was in his family and what their contact details were. Who would there be he could rely on? B had no family in the UK and his only relationship was with his foster carers, but the contact there had been reducing over the last year.
He was “a trauma and attachment kid and had no offences until his placement broke down in 2018, his offences then continued and were peer-related,” the GAL said. Therefore his peer group was a most important issue. There were reports of him smoking cannabis in his unit as well as dealing it. The GAL felt that this was related to a peer group that he had taken up with after his foster placement broke down in 2018. In his opinion B mirrored negative behaviour very easily and therefore a sole occupancy placement might be needed from now on.
The judge said that it was a very concerning case. He noted that there seemed “to be a slightly rosy picture painted in evidence and not much responsibility given to [B] himself and more to his peers”. The judge had read that B was not observing curfew in his placement and there were concerns around his difficulties with ADHD and Oppositional Conduct Disorder. The young person had not been taking his medication and this was concerning.
The court agreed that it was of great importance that B establish knowledge around his family and told the parties that he was satisfied that good progress was being made. He noted that the GAL wished the matter to come back for a further review and adjourned the case for further review in four months’ time with a for-mention date in a month’s time to confirm the allocation of the aftercare worker and progress in relation to aftercare.