The District Court heard that a teenage Traveller boy [Child A] living in a residential unit under a Full Care Order had gone missing while attending a relative’s funeral.
Initially a child in care alert had gone out. However the CFA then discovered that he had gone to another jurisdiction with his older brother who had also spent time in care. His brother had told the social work department over the phone that did not want that life [in the unit] for his younger brother. His mother was deceased at the time the Care Order was made and his brother was incarcerated.
A’s residential unit had been in touch with him since his arrival in the other jurisdiction and his social worker had also spoken to him on the phone. He had told them that he wanted to remain within his own culture and if he was made to come back he would run away again. The issue, said the CFA solicitor, was that his family in the other jurisdiction would not tell them of their whereabouts. However, the department did know that he was living on a piece of land owned by a relative. The CFA would like to meet with the family and see if he could remain there under the Care Order. It was incumbent on the CFA to listen to the child and to try and explore the option of him living with his extended family.
“The assessment of the social work department is that he is not at immediate or serious risk because he is within the family, they have bought him clothes and essentials. But we need to find out where he is,” said the CFA solicitor.
The judge said they needed to find [Child A] and make official arrangements.
The CFA solicitor told the judge that the CFA wanted to seek to engage with family members, she said that social services in the other jurisdiction did not have concerns about them. He was being actively sought by police with Interpol, who were also using mobile phone pinnings to locate him.
“[The brother] did indicate he would share his address,” said the solicitor.
“Tell him you will then do an emergency [foster care] assessment,” replied the judge. He said there would also be issues under Article 56 [transfer of jurisdiction between EU member states].
The social worker told the court that the indication as to why A had left the country was because he was a Traveller and he wanted to be with his family and not in residential care. Interpol were now actively trying to track his brother but the first step in the process was to clarify that he was not at immediate risk, said the CFA solicitor.
One month later the court heard that a Section 36 assessment [emergency fostering assessment] would commence the following week, the family had been located. The family, however, had not yet identified who would be assessed. It would take at least two or three visits to the other jurisdiction to complete the assessment and his legal guardian in Ireland was fully aware of the situation.
The judge told the CFA solicitor that if they had decided that this family placement was the appropriate placement then there had to be an Article 56 [application to transfer jurisdiction of proceedings]. “The point of Article 56 is then the social services in the [other jurisdiction] know about it,” he continued.
The judge pointed out that the EU court believed that Article 56 should be done immediately, however “everybody else seems to think it can be done whenever, that it’s ok to do it weeks and months later”.
The care order had to be enforced, “imagine that he leaves his brother and goes somewhere else and then you want to enforce it, why would you be waiting for whatever amount of time to register it,” said the judge. “The child is either missing or placed under Section 36 and if it is a placement then Article 56 would appear to apply.”
Article 56 should have been applied before the child left the jurisdiction.
“The purpose of Article 56 is that the local services are aware so they can step in, it may be that they don’t accept Article 56, that leaves you in a different place,” said the judge.
The case was put in For Mention for two weeks later in order to review the registration of the care order for enforcement, and the position of Article 56.