During the weekly Minors’ Review List over the course of a month, the court heard that two children who had been previously discharged from secure care were now engaging in high risk behaviour. One teenager (child A) had been on the Missing in Care Register and was spiralling into homelessness while the other (child B) had to go before the criminal juvenile court for charges accrued since his release from secure care. Further placements were therefore needed.
Child A, who was nearly 18, had left the residential centre where she had been placed. The barrister for the CFA told the court that a child alert had been sent out by the Gardai. She was making sporadic phone calls to give her whereabouts and her parents were at their wits’ end.
An MRI scan was being strongly considered to ascertain if there was an organic element to her behaviour. Previously she had spent a considerable amount of time in secure care but she was now spiralling into homelessness, drug taking and prostitution. She was at extreme risk, sleeping rough and making threats over the phone that she would be found dead. Her guardian ad litem was therefore supporting the new application for secure care.
The judge said she had noted that child A was on the Missing in Care register and put the case back for one week during which time the Admissions and Discharge Committee would meet regarding her application.
Week 1: Child B had previously spent nine months in secure care and was now engaging in extremely high risk behaviour in his step-down placement in respect of staff and property damage. The guards had been called out to the placement 25 times and the guardian ad litem was very concerned that he would be criminalised, there was a bench warrant out for him. Child B had left secure care nearly four months ago but a new application had been put in one month ago.
The judge said that his release from special care had backfired and a reconsideration of his position was urgently needed. She noted there were now two cases on the Minors’ List where a relapse had occurred. “All the good work is lost if he doesn’t get the chance now and it is a matter of extreme urgency that he would be looked at again,” she said.
Week 2: The court heard that although child B was now approved by the Admissions and Discharge Committee for a bed in secure care, there were none available. He now had 12 charges pending in relation to six thousand euros worth of damage in his step down placement for which he might get a custodial sentence. All of these charges had been accrued since his release from secure care during the summer. The judge asked for the case to come back into court later that morning and requested the CFA senior counsel to get an update on the secure care placement becoming available.
Week 3: Child B was now back in secure care, and a short medical report was submitted to the court. The judge asked for a report that would focus on the psychiatric element of his behaviour, she said she would like guidance as to whether the problem was behavioural (psychological) or psychiatric.
Senior counsel for the CFA told the court that child B had settled in reasonably well in the last two days and always appeared grateful to be back there, which was a worrying feature in itself, “that he would want to be in such a place.”
Senior counsel for the guardian ad litem told the court that the GAL was supportive of a psychiatric assessment other than one to deal with suicidal ideation.
The case was to return in three weeks.