The Dublin District Court heard that a nine-year-old boy had had five placement moves in 13 days in the on-going review of a child in care. “He is in care as a result of a care order,” the judge remarked, “his experience in care is augmenting his experience of harm that brought him into care, it is not the social worker’s fault, it is not the GAL’s fault and it is most certainly not [the child’s] fault.”
The child’s parent did not attend court on either of the two sittings of the review. The social worker told the court that his mother did not know A was out of his foster placement, there were deficits her access attendance but she was “very alive how broken his life and spirit is”. The team had tried to contact her regarding access after the first review but she was not at her drop in centre.
Prior to going into care the child had lived with extended family and he now required a therapeutic residential placement. He was currently living in emergency foster care in Dublin but did not know where he would be sleeping that night.
While the child had a psychotherapist continuing to visit him on a weekly basis there was a complete lack of placement. He needed to access a service called Active Connections which was an outdoor activity and therapeutic service who would take him from his placement at 9 a.m. and return him at 6 pm, however this service was not available in certain counties or in Dublin and he was currently staying in Dublin.
The team leader told the court that there were three residential therapeutic placements in the country but none of the three considered there was a placement available for him currently. The CFA did not have fostering therapeutic placements. Consideration was also being given to taking him out of the country but it was believed that this would be detrimental at such a young age.
The National Placement Team were looking for additional information on placements around Ireland before considering a bespoke placement. They had considered his profile and had come back a couple of times requiring more information and reports such as psychology reports and school reports which were then provided by the social work department.
The child’s needs were complex, the GAL was looking at the provision of a bespoke placement but this would take up to six months to set up as it involved a suitable premises being located and assessed by HIQA, and highly skilled and highly trained staff would need to be recruited. In the GAL’s opinion the young boy could not go to a mainstream residential unit.
The judge said it would appear that the child needed an intense level of remediation.
When the case returned later in the week the court heard that A had spent every night in the emergency foster care placement and was due to return that night to his previous placement for a few days. The National Placement Team had been provided with further documentation and referrals had been sent that morning to two service providers in different rural locations. A third service provider with a number of units nationally had also been sent the referral.
The GAL had requested a teleconference take place between the professionals involved and the National Placement Team, in the meantime A had had five different placements in two weeks.
The social worker told the court that funding had been approved for an extern worker and until that was set up his social care worker would continue to work with him from 10-5 pm or 6 pm on weekdays. Extern supported and delivered services to children and young people who were at risk of entering care, secure care or custody. The social work team were also looking to put supports in for the weekend, there was an incredible dearth of foster care and residential placements in the country. The judge acknowledged that the social work team were doing everything they could.
The case returned the following week and the court was told that the young child had only secured a placement for a few weeks.