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Child Law Project slams CAMHS for failures to refer
Dr Carol Coulter of Chile Law Project

14 Feb 2022 / family law Print

Child Law Project slams CAMHS for failures to refer

The chief executive of the Child Law Project (CLP) has said that some children still “slip through the cracks” in the care system, despite acknowledgement of the need for agencies to cooperate.

Dr Maria Corbett was speaking as the organisation published its latest report on cases where the State sought orders to take children into, or keep them in, care.

The latest volume of case reports includes criticism of Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS), and the HSE, for their responses to referrals and requests to assess and support children in care.

Family Court call

The report published today (14 February) includes a special section with a summary of the weekly ‘call-over’ list of matters for hearing held in the Dublin Metropolitan District during a ten-week period in late 2021.

Dr Carol Coulter (executive director of the Child Law Project, pictured) said that the overview of 739 cases listed for hearing in the period provided a snapshot of the scale and complexity of child-care cases coming before the courts Dublin. 

“It adds further weight to the mounting evidence for the urgent establishment of a dedicated national Family Court,” Dr Coulter commented.

Mental-health issues

According to the organisation, severe mental-health difficulties were the core concern in six of the 30 cases included in the latest volume of reports.

The cases include two young girls involuntarily detained due to self-harming behaviour and anorexia nervosa.

Two other cases concerned children in care who needed mental-health services to support them, to deal with childhood traumas that had led to their care admissions. 

Self-harming and depressed

In one of these, the judge directed that the children receive specialist neuro-feedback therapy, and in the other the judge ordered an assessment of a child who was self-harming and depressed.

The final two cases concern children who are presenting with complex needs including mental-health issues, disabilities, and addictions.

One of these concerned a boy currently detained in a youth-detention centre.

“He would be effectively homeless if released, as the Child and Family Agency (CFA) had no suitable residential placement for him,” the CLP says.

The secure care committee had refused to admit him to secure care, and the judge directed the committee to give reasons and, if his admission was still refused, to attend court to explain why. The case continues.

Separated children 

“Despite acknowledgement of the need for inter-agency cooperation, cases involving child protection, mental health and disability continue to result in situations where children slip through the cracks,” said Dr Corbett. 

“In two separate cases of teenage boys with complex needs, their placements broke down due to property damage and assaults on staff, for which the boys concerned are facing criminal charges, and the CFA is struggling to find new and appropriate placements that can meet their needs.”

A further six of the 30 cases concern separated children, many of whom had experienced significant trauma in their home countries, and on their journey to Ireland.

Fled Taliban

Two had spent time in refugee camps, one had fled the Taliban, and another had fled an arranged marriage to a member of an Islamic militant group.

Efforts were made to reunify these children with their families, but the CLP says that this can be complicated by safety concerns and a lack of information on their whereabouts, leading to stress and anxiety for the children.

Most of these children were doing well in their placement and with their education, although a few had significant health and mental-health needs, according to the report. 

The Child Law Project was formerly known as the Child Care Law Reporting Project.

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