An extension of an interim care order was granted in the District Court for a young boy with psychological needs and behavioural problems. His father was represented but did not attend court. His mother had no legal representation and did not attend either.
The social worker told the solicitor for the HSE that she had written a report outlining the supports in place for the child. A relative is fostering the child, and a regular system of residential respite will be put in place for him on a week-day night. He had challenging behaviour and they needed to place him in weekend respite.
The social work department were having difficulty getting him into the youth mental health service CAMHS, they have said he would not engage with them. They agreed however to monitor his medication. The social worker said an extern worker would be appointed for the child.
The barrister for the father said the father was now in a position to provide respite and access.
The social worker said that the father would not compromise with access being supervised in the social work department, but would agree to it being supervised in his home. She said the father had had unauthorised, unsupervised access with his son at the weekend. The barrister for the father said there were serious issues in the placement.
A case conference meeting was scheduled towards the end of the month, where core professionals (GAL, team leader, social worker) and the parents would meet to discuss the long term plan for the child and appropriate respite care. The social worker said: “The child needs specialised intervention.”
The child had made allegations of physical and emotional abuse in respect of his father, which occurred when his behaviour was challenging. She told the GAL that his fostering relative was aware of this, but she had felt under considerable pressure to provide the father with access. The father’s barrister said that the relative had asked him to take the child as she was under pressure.
The social worker said the parenting capacity assessment of both parents had been completed.
The judge said there was a lack of clarity with regards to how things were moving, “at this stage we need less paper and more clarity.” The extension of the interim care order was granted for eight days, on consent from the father, but contested by the mother.
When the case returned eight days later neither parent was present. The mother was unrepresented, the father was represented but had not given his legal team instructions.
The social worker told the HSE solicitor that she had had a meeting with CAMHS to discuss on-going issues. The child would have therapeutic intervention with a senior social worker and a psychiatrist regarding attachment issues.
CAMHS had reviewed his ADHD diagnosis and felt that he did not display ADHD signs anymore, but that he had significant issues with attachment and emotional disturbances due to multiple rejections. His therapeutic needs centred around him having a secure home environment. It was felt that he did not need medication and it could in fact be detrimental to his behaviour.
The social worker said the child was refusing to attend appointments and ran out of them. She said art therapy and re-engagement with a HSE child care worker would be very helpful at this stage. CAMHS did not feel they could offer support to the parents, they would have to find it with another organisation.
A private foster family had been identified late in the week. But when the social worker met them she did not feel they were appropriate because they would not be able to cope with the boy’s challenging behaviour so he was not placed there. She said now they had secured funding for respite she would endeavour to find an appropriate family for him.
She told the solicitor that since the last court hearing she had met with the mother, updated her and given her a copy of the parenting assessment. The father had had another unauthorised and
unsupervised access. The social worker then said when she rang the father about this he had become very verbally abusive. He told her that she was not to ring him and he would not engage with her again.
The judge asked how the access went even if it was unauthorised. The social worker said that it went well, but the issue was that the child presented sometimes with challenging behaviours and that was when there were problems. The father’s barrister said: “In the totality of this case wouldn’t it be vitally important to get the assessment regarding the allegations [of physical abuse]?”
The barrister asked if there were any parenting services for the father. The social worker said she was looking into options, however the father had said he did not want to engage with these programmes. The barrister said that it was often part of the social worker’s role to get parents to engage who did not want to.
She asked what steps had been taken to identify a secure, stable placement for the child. The social worker said they were looking at specialised placements for him, one of them was in the UK, and a decision would be made at the case conference the following week. The barrister confirmed that it was not so much a therapeutic service that was needed as a stable placement for the boy. The social worker also said they were looking at the extended family for respite.
The solicitor for the GAL told the court the child’s choices of where he wishes to live are firstly with his mother, secondly with his present carer and thirdly with another female relative. The GAL said in his report it may be appropriate to schedule a care order hearing, this could become clearer after the case conference next week.
The extension of the interim care order was granted.
“If your client wishes to be involved he needs to contact the social work department,” said the judge to the father’s barrister.