A judge in a rural town granted a full care order for a secondary school aged boy who had come into interim care when his father, with whom he lived, died. He did not want any contact with his mother, who had separated from his father. Before the hearing the boy had met with the judge and instructed the guardian ad litem (GAL) to tell the judge she was very nice.
Following private family law proceedings about five years earlier the boy had lived with his father and had no access and limited contact with his mother. His father had died in 2021 and the boy came into the care of the Child and Family Agency (CFA) following an interim care application.
This application was for a full care order. The court heard the boy was settled with foster carers and doing well. He had met with the judge prior to the hearing. Although the mother had attended previous court hearings, she was not in court that day and there was no representation on her behalf. The CFA stated they had had no contact from the mother, but they had correctly informed her of today’s hearing.
Evidence of the social worker
The social worker said there had been a family breakdown and private family proceedings in 2017 following which the boy had lived with his father. He had had very limited and sporadic contact with his mother. He blamed his mother for the family breakdown.
She said the boy’s father had died in 2021 and he came into the care of the CFA as no other family member or friend had been able to care for him. The boy was adamant that he would not go into the care of his mother. She said that he had been consistently offered contact and access with his mother, but this had been consistently refused.
He had moved foster placements, but his current foster placement had worked very well, and it was now being proposed as a long-term match. The application for this was before the long-term match committee and the social worker was expecting a positive result. She said he was a typical teenage boy, and this placement had the right balance of freedom and restriction.
She said it was awkward as it was some distance from his school, and he had a lengthy commute. He had been persuaded by his foster parents to move to a local school. His foster parents had reassured him that they would ensure he retained contact with his friends. She said the boy did have needs regarding his father’s death and that his father had prematurely introduced him to alcohol and cannabis. There had also been some physical abuse whilst he was in his father’s care. She said the boy accepted he needed some counselling, but he said he was not ready for this yet. She believed that he would accept this when he was ready and did not want to force it on him.
The boy remained adamant that he did not want contact with his mother. This was regularly discussed with the boy, but his position had never changed. The social worker said she had contact with his mother, but she refused to accept any of the boy’s wishes and demonstrated no insight or understanding of his wishes or needs.
A full care order was required to give the boy certainty and security. There was no prospect of a reunification with his mother and no other family member was in a position to care for him.
Evidence of the GAL
The GAL said that she had been instructed by the boy to the tell the judge he had enjoyed meeting her and she was very nice. He [the boy] had said it was important to meet the people who made the decisions and it was really helpful.
The GAL said she was supporting the application. She said the boy had said he wanted to stay with his current foster parents. The boy had had a difficult history with his parents, he had witnessed domestic violence, he felt abandoned by his mother and there had been some physical abuse by his father.
She said she supported what the social worker had said that the boy was adamant that he did not want contact with his mother. She said at times the boy might say he would call her, but this was fleeting, and he then returned to the original position that he did not want contact. She said the boy would ask for access or contact with his mother if he wanted it.
She believed he would benefit from some therapeutic support and the boy had acknowledged that also, but the GAL felt it would be better if this was initiated by him rather that forced upon him. She had confidence that when he was ready for this, he would ask for it.
The judge said she had enjoyed meeting with the boy and he was capable of making his views and wishes known. He was a mature teenager and a credit to himself. She had been left in no doubt that the boy wanted to stay with his current foster carers, did not want to go into the care of his mother and at present did not want contact with her.
She said that she was satisfied that the mother had been correctly served with today’s application and knew of it. She would proceed in the absence of the mother. She said she had to be cognisant of the constitutional rights of both the mother and the child and the right to a family life. She accepted there was no possibility of a reunification between the boy and his mother. She made a full care order until the boy was 18 years. As part of the order, she directed that any access between the boy and his mother was to be led by the boy.