A District Court judge in a regional city directed the Child and Family Agency (CFA) to notify the Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) of the failure of a private residential placement to notify the CFA that a child in their care had expressed suicidal ideation.
The CFA were granted extensions of interim care orders in respect of three young children, where parenting capacity assessments were delayed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Both parents were represented and both parents consented to the short extension.
The social worker gave informed the court that the older of the three children had therapeutic needs and had recently been placed in a private residential placement, which was supported by a clinical psychologist and a consultant psychiatrist. The social worker told the judge that they were concerned that the child would self-harm after he had made threats that he would take his own life. The social worker said that the placement had informed her of one occasion where threats had been made, but on examination of the log, the guardian ad litem (GAL) noted that a number of threats had been made by the young child and neither the CFA, the GAL nor the child’s parents had been notified.
The judge said that such threats were “mandatory reporting incidents” and he said that matters such as this needed to be addressed, especially where the CFA had a contract with this placement and was paying significantly more than they would for a private foster home. The judge also said that the CFA are in a parental-type role once the child is place into care by the court and this issue needed to be reported to Hiqa.
The social worker informed the court that the child concerned said that he did not want to see his mother. But when counsel for the mother put it to her that access had gone very well two months previously, she could not provide a reason as to why the child said that he did not want access.
The judge intervened and said: “Sometimes children don’t hear from their mom and they then believe they are being rejected and say they don’t want to see them. I have parents accused of not setting boundaries. The child is [of primary school age], we need to work with children to make them robust and resilient. Why not make an arrangement for access and it just takes place, blame the judge or someone else? Would it be that he might be expressing suicidal ideation because he doesn’t feel wanted? Maybe he thinks that his mom has forgotten him.”
Counsel for the mother also put it to the social worker that access with the two younger children had gone very well and asked if the CFA would consider increasing access to two times per week. The social worker agreed that supervised access was going very well, but she said that she did not believe an increase in access would be in their best interests. She did not expand on the reasons why an increase in access would not benefit the children, but agreed to considering extending access to one and a half hours each week.
The judge extended the interim care orders for a short duration and directed the following:-
- CFA to notify Hiqa of the non-notification by the placement of suicidal ideation of the child;
- The CFA to prepare a report on family reunification and a copy of that report to be provided in advance of next date;
- The CFA are to prepare a report on the assessments outlining the person who will conduct the assessment(s) and timeframe as to when they will be completed;
- The CFA to prepare minutes and contact notes in relation to access and to furnish same within seven days to parents and it should include both the positives and the negatives.
At the conclusion of the hearing, the judge again expressed his displeasure about the failure of the placement to notify the CFA of the suicidal ideation of the child.