During a review of a care order a court heard that a boy in care had complained about the care being provided in his foster parents’ home. The judge had asked for the matter to come back to court so that he could hear the boy’s views and the boy was present in court.
The CFA solicitor introduced the case by saying that she believed that that the foster mother was providing excellent care to the children in her house. She said that one of the complaints was that the food that was being served was from a fast-food shop but the solicitor pointed out that this had occurred one night after fourteen home-cooked meals had been provided to the boy.
The solicitor said: “I consider a treat from the chipper a part of life. There’s nothing wrong with that if you eat healthily most of the time”. She said that the boy was always very well turned out and that nobody has money for new clothes every month and it was important for the boy to realise that it was a good placement. In relation to the boy, who was African, saying that he did not get on with some other people in the placement, the solicitor said: “Ireland is a multicultural society. You have to get on with other people.”
Speaking to the boy, the judge said that that he was in a very unfortunate position. “Every child should be at home with their family but because things aren’t perfect not every child can be at home with his parents, brothers, sisters.” The judge said that just because a child was not at home with his family did not mean that the child in question “has to take second best” and does not mean that they have to put up with any unfairness. The judge said, however, that he would like the boy to be nice to the foster mother and said: “She deserves you to be nice to her.”
The boy said: “The reason I don’t treat her [the foster mother] fairly is that I feel that being in care is only starting to affect me in the past few months and this hasn’t been happening before.” The judge said that the boy was starting to develop an adult point of view. The boy said that he was seeing a counsellor and “it was going well”.
The judge pointed out that the boy hanging around with people in town was “part of the same thing” and that he probably wanted to make a life for himself that was not connected to the foster carers but the judge added “hanging out with the guys on the street isn’t the best.” The judge asked the boy what he did when he was hanging out on the street and he replied that he played music, talked, played games and danced. The judge said that people who are looking for trouble will go into the city centre and hang out on the streets.
The judge said “things will be becoming clear” to the boy but it was not fair to take it out on his foster mother and to be giving out about dinners and clothes. He said to the boy: “You might be sensitive to insult where no one intends to insult you … It’s understandable but it doesn’t get you anywhere”.
The judge said to the boy that in every house in the land there are people fighting and the foster mother could do with his support and not have him picking her up on “small things”. The judge said that if the boy’s placement broke down they would have to look for another placement that might not be as nice. He said there was lot to be said for the home environment in the boy’s current placement. He said that the boy would probably be able to apply for citizenship when he turned 18.
The judge asked the boy what was the worst thing about living in the foster placement and the boy replied that not being with his family was the worst thing. He also said: “I am a liability”. The judge said that every child is a liability, but you take on a liability with a view to it becoming an asset. He said: “You are a bright boy and we want you to become part of society … Having young people like you around makes life interesting, cheerful and bright” and when we retire you will be working and paying our pensions.
The judge added: “You will be more of an asset provided you keep your head together … if you fight with everyone you get it in your head that everyone is the enemy”. He said “we need you, your siblings need you,” and that whatever tensions might arise, they still need you.
The judge asked the CFA solicitor whether the boy had been enrolled in any summer courses and suggested a sailing course. The solicitor said that he had joined a gym but did not use it. The judge said that the boy looked like a “fit man” who did not need the gym. The judge asked the boy to think about what he would like to do during the summer.