An extension of a placement of a six-year-old child in a residential unit in another jurisdiction specialising in attachment issues was granted in the District Court. The child had been there for three years, the extension was for the coming months with consent from the parents. However the father said there was concern regarding parental contact.
The GAL’s solicitor said the GAL supported the continued placement in the other jurisdiction but he too had concerns regarding access. The GAL wished for an overall assessment of the child in relation to his needs, to give some clarity as to what was in his interests.
The judge asked whether the child had been aboard for three years, but with no therapy for the last year. The HSE solicitor said his therapy ended late last year, the residential unit had said they had done what they could in relation to therapy with him. Now the dynamic would have to change in order for him to make progress. The mental health services unit in Ireland had had an on-going involvement with him since his placement in the other jurisdiction.
A review meeting would take place in a month’s time to decide on a plan with both the Irish mental health unit and the child residential placement team in the other jurisdiction. The GAL’s solicitor was concerned that a placement had not yet been found for the child. However, the judge pointed out that a placement could not be chosen until his level of need was decided upon.
The judge asked what plan would be endorsed. She wanted to know if there had been direct contact between the residential unit in the other jurisdiction and the mental health unit in Ireland. The solicitor for the HSE said a senior psychologist within the mental health unit had visited the residential unit in relation to the boy.
The father’s solicitor said the child had no contact with his family, they could not send him anything, not even photos. The HSE solicitor responded that they had had very little contact with the parents despite on-going efforts to meet them and ring them.
The judge requested to see the care plan, but the HSE social worker did not have one with him. He told the court that, from his recollection, in relation to his identity the child knew where he was from and who his parents were. He was aware of his siblings, though he didn’t remember them, he wanted to live with “a family”. The house (residential unit) he was living in had cultural awareness provision.
“He has no idea of a family,” said the father’s solicitor. The social worker went on to explain in great detail of how difficult it was to make contact with the parents after the child went to the other jurisdiction. They had been unresponsive to letters and non-contactable until the mother contacted the social work department by phone after a year and a half, and gave them a contact number. However it did not work. A few months later the social worker met the father when he came out of prison and gave him photos. However, the father was homeless and the social worker could not subsequently get in touch with him.
The mother was then in prison for some time. A few months ago the social worker regained contact with the father, they met after extensive efforts and he met the parents again before this court date. They understood introducing access at this point would not be easy for the boy.
The social worker said the child never raised the subject of his parents or discussed them. The father’s solicitor asked about giving the child a photo, the social worker said he was constantly in a hyper-vigilant state and a photo could produce a huge response which would have a traumatic effect. When asked why his half siblings or siblings did not have access with him, the social worker explained that as far as he was aware they had separate lives before he went to the other jurisdiction, and he hardly knew them.
The judge said the onus was on the parents to provide the photos and to keep the social work department informed about where they were living. She said now the parents had turned a corner it was a matter of doing these things. “Right now it would appear we’re at a very delicate stage,” she said.
The social worker told the father’s solicitor that the giving of photos etc. had to be timed perfectly. The child had been through a great deal of therapy and he did not want him to be set back. The social worker needed a level of engagement with the parents. The department required consistent and constant clean urine from both of them, the mother had only given two clean samples (for opiates) last year and none this year. “Once it’s a positive thing for [the child] photos will be introduced” he said.
Regarding the child recommencing therapy, the social worker told the court that the form of therapy best suited to the child had to be decided upon. It would then continue in Ireland when he returned.
The GAL told his solicitor that he had met with the child a number of times. He was having a difficult time at the moment as another child had moved into the unit whom he was scared of. He was now doing a full school day, could read independently and was doing very well at school.
His needs were complex. “It’s very serious to move a six year old boy out of the jurisdiction,” he said, the child had only been back to Ireland once in three years. Allegations made some time ago were now being re-investigated following further disclosures by the child.
The child now required a multi-disciplinary assessment from the mental health services unit. The GAL had organised a meeting in the following week with a professor of psychiatry, to ask her opinion if the child had moved from disorganised attachment to reactive attachment.
He would also be meeting with the responsible clinical psychologist and the responsible psychiatrist in the mental health services unit in Ireland, as well as having a professionals’ meeting in the residential placement in the other jurisdiction to discuss onward placement issues.
The GAL told the father’s solicitor that the child did not have any friends, “but I’m not saying he’s an unhappy child … we know that it causes significant trauma to be raised in residential care, the threshold for residential care is extremely high, so the assessment is very important so that the outcomes in terms of therapy have the right mix,” he said.
The judge said: “What we’re missing here is the roadmap as to what suits this young boy.” The GAL replied: “There is nowhere to bring the child to at the minute.”
A review was listed concerning the child’s welfare, in terms of identifying his replacement of his current needs. The order was granted to extend the placement for the coming months.