A District Court in a rural town heard a boy about to leave the care of the Child and Family Agency faced a future of “prison or death” without supervised care.
The child was the eldest of a family of eight, all of whom had been taken into care a year earlier following allegations of neglect and sexual abuse. He was 17 when taken into care, was two stone underweight and had a condition like rickets. Allegations of sexual abuse had been made against him.
The case came back to court for review and the court was told that he would turn 18 within a couple of months. He had been absconding from the residential unit in which he had been living, initially with another resident, who had since been moved.
His social worker said the Child and Family Agency had been in touch with the learning disability service and approval had been obtained for funding for him. His general health had improved, as had his social and emotional welfare until August, when he met up with a cousin who was also in care and absconding. There were two other residents there who had a stabilising influence on him, but they had since left.
The social worker said that he would not be able to cope with independent living. While he had learned to do certain things, like personal care, he could not do them without direction. Asked what the future held for him, the social worker said: “Prison or death, without supervised care. He is very open to influence, especially negative influence. He is a person who could meet someone who would suggest him doing something and he would do it. He is very easily led. He is easy to interact with. He can be aggressive but he is affable and likeable.
“He is happy where he is. Although he absconds, he elects to return either by taxi or by contacting a Garda station.”
Asked by his parents’ barrister if it was fair to say there had been no improvement since he went into care, she said: “No. He has put on two stone. He learned routine and how to relate to staff.”
She acknowledged he engaged in criminal behaviour, including stealing a safe in the centre, but said a lot of these behaviours were while under the influence of other people. “He is very susceptible to negative influences. I don’t think he will reach a stage where he can live independently safely.
“If he does not have an appropriate placement he will end up homeless, on the streets, among drug abusers. He gravitates towards negative influences, putting himself and others at risk.” Psychotherapy that had been recommended had been started, but could not continue because he kept absconding.
Asked by the judge what would happen if an appropriate place was not found the social worker said he would be referred to after-care, but that was not suitable for his needs. “So if funding does not become available, this boy will be on the streets by the New Year?” the judge asked.
The after-care service director said professional opinion was that the boy probably would not be able to live independently. He was unable to budget or buy ingredients for basic meals. While his general health was good, he suffered from panic attacks. He did not indicate he wanted to return to his birth family.
The guardian ad litem said another young person told him if he cut himself he would be brought to hospital. This showed the extent to which he was influenced by others and prepared to self-harm. He reported he was taking heroin and crystal meth. Anything which loosened his inhibitions also made him dangerous to others.
He was veering towards the homeless community, a large proportion of which were active drug users. He had no appreciation of what the future holds.
Judge: “The state is obliged to look after people. Does that not include the obligation to fund them? One does not exist without the other?”
He adjourned the matter for two weeks.
When it came back to court the CFA solicitor told the court that funding for special after-care support had been obtained.
See Archive: 2014, Volume 2, Case History 3