Teen ‘distressed’ over possible delay in return home

A teenager with a condition on the autism spectrum is “very distressed” that her return to Ireland next month from a psychiatric hospital in England may not proceed due to a delay in finding a suitable placement for her here, the High Court has heard.

Teen ‘distressed’ over possible delay in return home

Directing a special hearing of the matter later this month, Ms Justice Bronagh O’Hanlon said the 17-year-old “clearly needs a place” and the matter is urgent.

The girl, who has been in the English hospital since November, was considered suitable for discharge months ago, and was told she would be home in August. There is considerable doubt about that, the court heard.

The girl, her mother, and guardian are very concerned about delay on the part of the Child and Family Agency (CFA) in finding or designing a suitable placement for her, their lawyers told the judge.

A psychologist with expertise in autism and who carried out an independent assessment of the girl is concerned, due to the uncertainty and delay in finding or designing an appropriate placement, that she will end up “in crisis” and in adult psychiatric care “where she should not be”, counsel for the guardian said.

That psychologist believes the best placement for her is in a unit near Dublin which may not be available until early next year, it was stated.

A unit in the south of the country was mentioned but may not be available for some time and the girl rejected that as too far from her family and friends and had threatened to run away if put there, the court heard.

Felix McEnroy, for the CFA, said his side’s doctor took a different view based on what is available in this State. He said various reports were being provided to the court and the matter should be adjourned for intensive welfare review.

Teresa Blake, counsel for the girl’s mother, said she has “a very different position” from the CFA and disagreed with the characterisation by Mr McEnroy of this as “a mental health case”. This is “not a mental health case” and rather involves an issue of autism spectrum disorder, counsel said.

The girl would be 18 soon and her mother is concerned an appropriate placement be found as soon as possible, counsel added. The girl’s level of need was “beyond the capacity of ordinary parents” to deal with.

Ms Justice O’Hanlon said the girl clearly needs a place, the matter is urgent, and there would be a special hearing later this month. In the interim, the relevant professionals could meet and address the issues and consideration might also be given to the girl coming home with appropriate supports, she said.

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