A District Court in a provincial town placed a teenager in a short-term residential placement while she awaited assessment for a possible behavioural disorder.
The mother was present in court and was represented by a solicitor from the LAB. A social worker’s report was handed into court and read by the judge. He stated that the contents of the report seemed “quite dramatic”. The matter had been listed for review the following month, but was re-listed at short notice due to significant events since the last order had been granted. A placement had broken down.
The court had previously directed a family-wide assessment. However, there was no availability for such an assessment to be carried out for at least six months. The solicitor for the CFA stated that enquiries were being made as to whether any other service could provide an assessment within a shorter timeframe.
The LAB solicitor stated that CAMHS had previously indicated that mental health services were not required for the teenager. The mother was concerned that only now was it saying that such services were necessary.
The solicitor for the CFA stated that CAMHS initially put the teenager’s difficulties down to environmental factors, but now was of the opinion that the issue went much deeper. It could not predict the outcome of the psychiatric assessment.
The LAB solicitor said that her client was very concerned about the proposed relocation of her daughter to a residential unit. She felt that this was not in her daughter’s best interests and would not meet her needs. If there was no other foster placement available, she felt it would be best for her to come home.
The LAB solicitor stated that her client was anxious that a psychiatric assessment into her daughter’s potential behavioural disorder take place immediately. She said: “The results may well throw light on what should happen going forward. It may allow her to come home to live with her mother and her sister who herself lives at home.” She asked that the court direct that an assessment take place immediately.
The judge stated that the reality was that he must ask if an assessment is available.
The solicitor for the CFA stated that it was a HSE assessment and she hoped the process would be expedited. She stated that the CFA’s concern was that the teenager’s last return to her mother’s care had been very unsuccessful. She ended up in hospital after her mother called the Gardaí, which had been a common occurrence previously.
The judge said that he could not direct an assessment where the HSE claim they are doing their best to facilitate one. There is no “magic wand” to direct an assessment where there is no availability. The LAB solicitor stated that she did not want a situation where the teenager is put on a waiting list for six months.
In reply, the solicitor for the CFA pointed out that a direction to carry out an assessment is not enforceable when it involves the HSE.
The LAB solicitor made reference to a recent report into the CFA, the conclusion of which, she said, was that the services it was providing were insufficient. She stated: “Someone needs to stand up and be counted.”
The judge stated: “We live in the real world.” He said it was clear from the report that the teenager was troubled. The report showed that chaos ensued whenever she was returned to her mother. The judge asked whether there was really any alternative to a residential placement. There had been two referrals which ended up in chaos. He said that the placement may only be short-term, but it did not seem there was an alternative.
The mother addressed the court directly. She said: “I hold my hands up. Sometimes I can’t control her behaviour.” However, she asked that her daughter be returned to her for a short period until the matter could be listed again. She stated that she would sign on daily in the Garda Station during this period.
The judge replied that this was not a criminal case and that signing on daily in the Garda Station would not be appropriate.
The mother said that she was trying to move out of the area in which she lives, where she said her daughter gets to run wild. She pleaded again that her daughter not be placed in a residential placement and be returned to her home on a short-term basis. She said that she was linking her with a youth worker who would assist in keeping her active.
The LAB solicitor advised the court that the mother had been in a residential placement herself which informed her resistance to the same thing happening to her daughter.
The judge said that the mother was putting the cart before horse. The teenager needed to undergo the assessment. He said that there was no reality to returning her to her mother’s care now. Perhaps that could happen at the next date the matter was listed. Alternatively, maybe she could come back at weekends. However, it was too early to make such a determination without the availability of the psychiatric report.
The mother said that she could predict the week ahead if her daughter was put in a residential placement. She would run away. There would be guards out looking for her. She stated that she predicted everything that had now been said in the reports. She predicted that her daughter had the same behavioural difficulty she is now being tested for.
The mother stated that what she wanted was help. She wanted someone to come into her house in the morning and evening to help her daughter get ready for school.
The judge stated that the only option without a proper assessment report was to accede to the CFA’s application to place the teenager in temporary residential care until the next return date in a number of weeks. The judge, therefore, made the order requested.