Interim care order for transgender teenager

An interim care order was made in a provincial town in respect of teenager who identified as transgender. The parents were from a non-EU jurisdiction and of a Muslim background. The teenager, who had been in voluntary care since 2020, had been detained under section 25 of the Mental Health Act, 2001 and placed in a residential unit. There was an issue of gender dysphoria in relation to the teenager and an assessment was underway. The mother consented to the application, but the father contested the application. The guardian ad litem (GAL) also supported the application.

The parents had not engaged previously with the social workers. They had difficulties accepting the teenager’s sexuality and gender identity due to their cultural and religious background and there were difficulties obtaining the consent of the parents for LGBT supports for the teenager. A relationship was then forged between the mother and the social workers and the relationship between the teenager and the mother had also improved. The teenager was spending three to four nights at home but it had not been possible to progress a reunification plan.

The teenager identified as transgender and they were currently undergoing a gender orientation assessment with a clinical psychologist to provide them with gender support to make decisions about their identity when they turn 18. Meetings would be arranged with the clinical psychologist, the Child and Family Agency (CFA) and the mother with a translator to enable the mother to be more informed about the assessment.

The social worker did not have an opportunity to discuss the gender assessment with the father as she was unaware of his whereabouts. He had been invited to meetings and did not attend.

The parents did not support treatment for gender dysphoria and it was not the intention of the CFA to engage in hormone treatment. The assessment was more focused towards the mental health aspect of gender dysphoria. The mother was concerned the teenager was not taking medication prescribed for a medical condition when the teenager was at home. The teenager was against the interim care order the previous week but came around to the position recently.

The solicitor for the father asked: “What is the purpose of the interim care order now as the child is in voluntary care and wants to stay [in voluntary care]?”

The social worker said: “it [the interim care order] is required for stability for the young person and the supports.”

The solicitor for the GAL said the teenager had written an email expressing their frustrations with the interim care order process and stated in the email that the interim care order should not progress as the mother had not been provided with a translator or transport to travel to court.

The teenager was worried about legal representation for the mother and that prompted the issue of remaining in voluntary care. The teenager later made it clear that the application for the interim care order should proceed.

The judge was satisfied that the threshold for the interim care order had been met. The judge made no direction regarding gender dysphoria or medical treatment relating to gender dysphoria.

The interim care order was granted for a period of 28 days.