‘Groundhog day’ for girl in inappropriate secure care placement, High Court told

Judge warns Tusla to find place for troubled girl

A High Court judge has warned Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, it must urgently find an appropriate placement for a troubled girl.

A High Court judge has warned Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, it must urgently find an appropriate placement for a troubled girl.

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A High Court judge has warned Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, it must urgently find an appropriate placement for a troubled girl amid concerns about the legality of continuing her secure detention for much longer.

The 17-year-old girl, who has been in care for years, has been inappropriately placed for the last five months in a secure facility and issues about the legality of continuing such detention may have to be faced, Ms Justice Leonie Reynolds indicated.

When Sarah McKechnie BL, for the agency, said her client accepted no real progress had been made in finding an appropriate placement and the situation did not leave the court in a “very happy position”, the judge said: “More importantly, it does not leave the child in a very happy position.”

The judge said she well understood the girl’s mounting frustration and why, in refusing to engage with a placement worker in the absence of any place for her being identified, she had recently said: “I’m not playing ball any more ’cause nobody is playing ball with me.”

The girl is “voting with her feet”, the judge said.

Gerard Durcan SC, for the girl’s court-appointed guardian, said the matter was “like groundhog day”, involving frequent applications for appropriate placements and frequent adjournments in the hope those would be identified.

Increasingly, the issue is, if asked why the girl is still in secure care, it is because there is no place for her, he said. While it was argued there is a therapeutic rationale, “the fact is the legal basis for all of this reduces as time goes on”.

‘We can’t keep doing this’

“We can’t keep doing this, we can’t keep turning up every month and having the same discussions and wringing hands and saying ‘Isn’t it awful, somewhere has to be found’,” he said.

Counsel said it was “inevitable” the matter had to be adjourned so efforts could continue to find a place but stressed: “We can’t have the same situation next time.”

The situation was not fair to anyone, mainly the girl, and it was inevitable her behaviour will deteriorate if something is not done, he said. They were “close to the buffer of legality” in continuing secure detention, he said.

Ms McKechnie said she accepted that and hoped progress might be made before January. The girl required a “bespoke” placement, she said.

The judge warned she had “no doubt” that “certain steps will be taken if matters don’t progress”. She extended the detention orders to next month with liberty to apply in the interim should a solution be found before that.

Ms Justice Reynolds, who manages the weekly High Court minors list, expressed concern in several cases before her on Thursday about the absence of appropriate placements for the children involved.

She heard that, among possible placements being explored for a teenage boy, is a place in the United States which would raise novel legal issues.

Counsel for the boy’s court-appointed guardian said they were concerned they are now a year on from an assessment of the boy’s needs and six months on from his inappropriate placement.

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