An extension of an interim care order was granted in the Dublin District Court for a boy whose father was incarcerated outside of the jurisdiction and whose mother was living in a tent.
The child had been born in Ireland to an Irish mother and to a father who had been from outside the jurisdiction but living in Ireland at the time. The child’s mother, who had significant mental health issues, was living in a tent in the suburbs of Dublin and did not want access to her child or to be a party to the proceedings.
The child’s father was incarcerated within his own country of origin, under “a considerable sentence” and the child had been living in that country for a lengthy period of time with his paternal grandparents. With the consent of both parents an international social work team had travelled to the father’s country of origin and offered to bring the child back to Ireland where he had resided for six months at the time of the interim care order extension hearing.
The allocated social worker who had brought the child back to Ireland told the court that although they had tried to involve the child’s mother in the proceedings she had made it very clear that she did not want anything to do with the Agency or the application. There was a long history of involvement with the mother and child protection services regarding her other children. She had given her consent for the social work team to return her child to Ireland but did not want any further involvement.
The court heard that the child had been separated from his family unit in Ireland for a considerable amount of time and had been living with his grandparents. He had built up very high expectations as to how things would unfold on his return to Ireland and thought perhaps that his fractured family would reunite and that he would be with his half-siblings.
Access arrangements were very difficult for the child because access was short and sporadic. There were a lot of mental health issues throughout the family and his adult brother was living in supported care, an older teenage sister also had mental health difficulties and all of his other siblings were in care.
It bothered the child greatly to be in care because he had been away for a considerable amount of time and “looked after himself well without the supervision he should have had, he was left to his own devices and took himself to school,” stayed up late and had no curfew. He was finding foster care difficult because he did not like adults discussing his situation or his needs or having to ask for things and was having a lot of difficulty in his placement as a result.
“He doesn’t offer alternatives to what would make him happy rather than a long-term placement,” the social worker told the court. “He says he’s not happy in his current placement” and could not understand why it was not possible for him to live with his adult brother.
A referral had been put out for an alternative placement and although a possible carer had been found, the child “performed really badly” at the initial meeting with the potential foster mother and it became clear that he did not want to be there. Subsequently the carer said that she did not think it would work for her. “He had said then: ‘What’s the point, I might as well stay where I am’.”
“Does he regard himself as an adult?” asked the judge.
“He’s used to doing for himself and he did it well,” replied the social worker, “but he’s immature socially and in his ability to connect with people. The carers he is with are very resilient and durable. If he engaged they would consider it a long-term match. The placement is not such a bad match, he hasn’t had the same social interaction you’d expect of a child of this age, in one month or some weeks there might be a shift, given time. The carers are waiting for him to engage but if he’s not happy then maybe he should be somewhere else.”
On the positive side the child was making connections within the community and had started participating in local sports.
There was a child play therapist attached to the international social work team and there was a space available for him for “life work” when he was ready. The social worker was going to suggest that he could partake in the play therapy with his half-siblings so that it would create contact between them and encourage him to attend.
The guardian ad litem (GAL) told the court that she was also the GAL for the boy’s older siblings. His father had been incarcerated in the UK previous to his current incarceration and had mental health difficulties. The mother’s mental health difficulties were severe, an older sister was struggling with her mental health and one of her own children was in care.
It had been a shock to the child to realise there was “no bosom of any family here”, his family was staggered between adults and adolescents who were unable to look after themselves or who were in care themselves. In the GAL’s opinion the child felt angry and adrift because none of those siblings could care for him. “His presentation is [of being] rejected and feeling rejected, he thinks nobody likes him,” explained the GAL.
As was common for children apart from their families, he had idealised them and was therefore very rejecting of his foster parents.
“Would he have prospered better in [his father’s country of origin] if he hadn’t come back, is he glad he’s back?” asked the judge.
“He hasn’t asked to go back,” replied the GAL.
The social worker informed the court that he had also discussed this with the child. “He felt abandoned there but he wants to be right here, he doesn’t pine for [there],” she said.
The GAL told the court that she was supportive of the boy starting life-story work and communication with other teens would help his social skills. She was supportive of the extension of the ICO.
The judge was satisfied that the circumstances continued that gave rise to the original ICO, he said that it was proportionate and appropriate to extend it subject to the same directions and gave the usual medical directions. He allowed the order for substituted service for the mother by text and service outside the jurisdiction for the father.